TV stats show SA as the big watcher
SOUTH African derbies top the list of the most-watched Super 15 rugby games on television.
Figures on TV audiences released this week show the top six Super 15 matches are South African derbies, with the match between the Stormers and the Bulls on June 2 topping the list with just over a million viewers.
The country's rugby bosses recently used the popularity of South African games to support their abortive bid for a sixth team in the Super 15.
There are five South African teams in the competition - the Bulls, Stormers, Sharks, Lions and Cheetahs - with one of these having to drop out next year to accommodate the Southern Kings, who have been promised a berth by the SA Rugby Union.
The Stormers feature in eight of the top 10 most-viewed games despite their rugby being described as "boring", while New Zealand's Crusaders only feature on the top 10 most-watched matches twice - both games against South African opponents.
There is only one match in the top 20 that doesn't include a South African side - the Crusaders versus the Blues on May 19 - which had a total viewership of 740985. Of that, 373299 watched the game on Supersport with 274400 watching on Sky Sports in New Zealand.
Despite the numbers, the TV income is split almost evenly among South Africa, New Zealand and Australia.
Supersport pays the most in broadcast rights, holds minority stakes in the Cheetahs and Sharks, and could flex its muscle to try to force Sanzar into a format change as early as next year.
"One of the major factors is what the broadcasters want," said Sanzar CEO Greg Peters. "They pay a lot of money across the three territories and that funds the game."