Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town – It was a smash hit in its inaugural edition at Cape Town Stadium earlier this year.
But the second staging of Superhero Sunday – a pre-season double-header featuring all four of South Africa’s Super Rugby teams – seems earmarked for a shift in location in early 2020 to the considerably bigger venue of FNB Stadium in Johannesburg.
While key stakeholders in the widely-lauded first event like Vodacom and SuperSport have been cagey about the plans for a follow-up tournament – saying that all will be revealed at the official Super Rugby launch hosted by the television broadcaster on Thursday (November 28) – Sport24 has learnt from reliable sources that the Highveld is expected to have its chance to stage the event this time.
Almost certainly scheduled for January 19, again two weeks before the start of Super Rugby-proper, the extravaganza will also serve as the first opportunity to see domestic-based representatives of the victorious Springbok World Cup-winning squad strut their stuff in a new campaign.
Last season’s Capetonian event – attended by some 50 000 people, a figure only dreamed of these days for SA-staged games in Super Rugby itself – was held on February 3, but only because Super Rugby 2019 started on a later date then, albeit also a fortnight onward.
This year’s tournament has a record early start, on the weekend beginning Friday, January 31: South African-relevant games see the Sharks host the Bulls that Friday night, while the Saturday will see the Stormers host the Hurricanes and last season’s conference winners, the Jaguares, entertain the Lions in Buenos Aires.
At the time last summer, the Sunday spectacular was the first demonstration of the SuperHero jerseys worn by all four SA franchises for certain fixtures during Super Rugby; the Sharks played the Lions in the first match on the day and the Stormers entertained the Bulls in the later kick-off.
It could not be established at the time of writing who will play who this time.
The Marvel-themed jerseys saw the Lions represent Spiderman, the Bulls Captain America, the Stormers Thor and the Sharks Black Panther; the project was a collaboration between SA Rugby, DStv/SuperSport, Vodacom and Marvel.
SA Rugby spokesperson Andy Colquhoun was also reasonably guarded over the follow-up event, but did say that SuperSport were “driving ahead … but still working on logistics (for an early 2020 edition)”.
What does seem pretty clear is that a follow-up SuperHero Sunday is, indeed, in the offing: at a Stormers media briefing a few days ago, for instance, new franchise head coach John Dobson spoke of “Marvel Day” when detailing his pre-season planning.
While a firm case could be made for not tampering with a good thing (so keeping SuperHero Sunday at Cape Town Stadium), a just as plausible argument could be submitted for gauging whether the concept may have equal or even better appeal elsewhere.
FNB Stadium has a well superior capacity of almost 85,000, the ability to draw both staunch Lions and Bulls fans, and would also serve as a “people’s choice” sort of homecoming location for Bok heroes, at the outset of the 2020 season, through its close proximity to Soweto.
While some of the South African coaches in Super Rugby may be reluctant to field front-line Boks in their ranks so early in the fresh campaign, partial playing roles for them on the SuperHero occasion might be a strong sponsors/broadcasters’ wish … or at very least the likes of captain Siya Kolisi, World Rugby player of the year Pieter-Steph du Toit, Lukhanyo Am, Steven Kitshoff and Makazole Mapimpi be prominently paraded as VIPs on the occasion.
The first SuperHero Sunday was marked by realistic ticket pricing (around R50-R80, and discounts for sets of four) and numerous charity-geared side-line activations.
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