ARU boss Bill Pulver admits the Wallabies lost momentum and public interest with last month’s All Black demolition.
Hit hard by slumping crowds, the Australian Rugby Union has admitted the Wallabies’ Eden Park nightmare has taken the “wind out of our sails”.
The All Blacks’ 51-20 demolition of Australia three weeks ago also appears to have taken a significant number out of their ticket sales in ensuing Perth and Gold Coast Tests.
Only 14,281 fans – the lowest Test crowd in 16 years – turned out for Saturday night’s Rugby Championship clash with Argentina at Cbus Super Stadium.
It was 8000 less than the corresponding fixture two years earlier, mirroring the decline for the previous week’s Wallabies encounter in Perth where the crowd was 25,718 to watch Australia get out of jail against South Africa at Paterson Stadium.
ARU chief executive Bill Pulver admitted the drop-offs, which also occurred in Brisbane and Melbourne in the June series against France, were a major concern to the cash-strapped code.
Pulver stressed the revenue-sapping reduction in crowd numbers was a global phenomenon across virtually all sports, but felt it was inherent on the Wallabies to be “winning and entertaining”.
“If you can find that sweet intersection of those two you have an opportunity to get the crowds back,” he told AAP.
The Wallabies have done their best to do both in the past 10 months, recording a 9-1-1 record over 11 Tests and average three tries a game.
However, what momentum that built up following seven straight wins and then a 12-12 draw against New Zealand in Sydney was lost once Australia forfeited the Bledisloe Cup for the 12th straight year in forgettable scenes in Auckland.
“I think that game at Eden Park, because we all felt we were in with a serious opportunity, took the wind out of our sails a little bit,” Pulver said.
“But the reality is we have lost only one of our last 11 games.
“That New Zealand team have only lost one of their past 42 Tests, so statistically there’s a very strong case for them to be the best rugby team in the history of the game.”
Although the Wallabies get another chance for an elusive victory over the All Blacks in five weeks’ time, Pulver argued their next fixture – against South Africa in Cape Town on Saturday week – was just as big, if not bigger.
“The game in two weeks’ time is enormously important,” he said.
“If we can beat South Africa we would move to number two on the IRB rankings and also reclaim the Mandela Shield.”
Despite the weekend’s paltry crowd, Cbus Super Stadium is currently pencilled in to host Argentina again in 2018 as the last game in a three-Test agreement.
But the ARU says Gold Coast, to host the world sevens series next month, is in danger of losing future international rugby events, especially if they don’t pack their 27,000-seat stadium.
An expanded world sevens series is set to kick-off in February 2016, six months before the sport debuts in the Olympics, and Pulver indicated there would be a bunfight for hosting rights.
“It’s fair to say we have interest in virtually every state for that event,” he said.