Rugby: Thursday date disappointing

The Otago Rugby Football Union is disappointed a southern derby was scheduled for a Thursday night and is hoping it does not occur again.

The ITM Cup match between Otago and Canterbury at Forsyth Barr Stadium attracted a crowd of about 4500 last Thursday night, the visiting side coming out the winner 23-16 in an even tussle.

Although Otago Rugby Football Union general manager Richard Kinley said he was happy enough with a crowd of 4500 for a Thursday night game, it could have been a lot more.

''I do think strongly that New Zealand rugby when developing the draw should firstly take the games that are considered local derbies and schedule them for weekends,'' he said.

''If this game had been played at the weekend we would have more Canterbury fans travelling and also more Otago fans attending.''

The last time Otago played Canterbury in Dunedin was in 2011, when Otago played for the first time at Forsyth Barr Stadium. A crowd of more than 14,000 attended and, although many came to experience the stadium for the first time, it was played on a Saturday night, and fans from Canterbury headed south for the match.

With the ITM Cup played in such a tight window, games have to be played on Wednesdays and Thursdays to fit the schedule into the two and-a-half months the competition takes and so it is not easy for the organisers to meet every request from unions.

Kinley said it was a tough task to try to make as much money as possible from a derby game when it was played on a Thursday night. It was not only the union which lost out.

''I would also maintain that the ability to maximise revenue from what would be considered a local game when played Wednesday or Thursday is hugely challenging, not just for the ORFU but the city in general.

''Crowd numbers are down. This just doesn't affect the ORFU but also has a major effect on motels and hotels, bars and restaurants and others.''

A draft draw had come out earlier in the year and Kinley had attempted to move the fixture without success.

Kinley did not have to look far for a derby match which attracted a reasonable crowd, pointing to the game in Invercargill last week.

More than 7000 turned up at Rugby Park in Invercargill last weekend to see Southland and Otago clash and a sizeable contingent of Otago fans travelled south.

Otago is also looking at a small crowd turning up for its game this Wednesday against Northland, its only Wednesday game of the competition.


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