Management at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium were elated at the support received from rugby fans over the weekend’s Cell C Nelson Mandela Bay Sevens tournament, which saw a bumper two days of international rugby, but more importantly showcased the “hunger for top-flight rugby in the city”.
“We are overwhelmed by the support the Sevens received on Saturday and Sunday,” said Access Management chief executive, Chantal Du Pisani. “We asked people to vote with their feet and the outcome was really a resounding yes in favour of world-class rugby and the Sevens.”
The stadium saw foot traffic of 58 569 people over the course of two days. This is a 63% increase on last year’s attendance figures.
“It is clear that people in the Eastern Cape are hungry for top flight rugby, and this goes hand in hand with the strong lobby and desire for a provincial franchise team,” said Di Pisani, saying that over the season Super Rugby games were well supported, and that this trend continued through into the Sevens, indicating the desire for rugby of this level.
“The stadium is but a shell without its supporters and rugby fans who came from across the city, province and country to show their love – and hunger for – the sport. We are incredibly grateful and will endeavour to better these numbers next year as we focus on securing further rugby games of this stature for the Eastern Cape.
“Because of your commitment, we as a Stadium team wanted to say a heartfelt thank you to the people of Nelson Mandela Bay and beyond, who came out in their numbers to be a part of rugby’s biggest party and help ensure we send a strong signal to SARU that Nelson Mandela Bay wants to play host to the Sevens for a further four years,” added Du Pisani.
“We are grateful for your support and belief in the great things we are capable of in our city. You made us proud to bear the name of our beloved Madiba, who loved sport and rugby in particular so much.”
The tournament was tinged with sadness at the loss of former president and world icon, Nelson Mandela, but also celebration as 16 teams and tens of thousands of fans stood united to mark and rejoice at the great leader’s achievements.
The National Anthem was sung in his honour at the onset of the games, with 16 teams coming together as one, adorned in the South African flag colours, and together with fans at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium bringing the anthem to life.
“It is because of your support of this event that our community – and the whole world represented by their teams – was united in an overwhelming show of support for South Africa during our time of loss,” added Du Pisani.
“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to unite in a way that little else does. Sport can create hope where there once was only despair.” – Nelson Mandela
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