Stormers make surprise overseas signing

Powerful midfielder Alapati Leiua, who started his career with the Hurricanes before joining the English Premiership where he played for Wasps and Bristol Bears, has 31 Test caps for Samoa and will now make a blockbuster move towards the Stormers.

Known for his uncompromising physique in both attack and defence, the 33-year-old brings significant experience with him to Cape Town where he will join his new team-mates once his work permit is approved.

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Stormers coach John Dobson has welcomed Leiua, who he believes will be a major influence on some of the team’s young players.

“Alapati is a proven performer who will give us a decisive advantage in midfield while mentoring some of the talented youngsters we have here. We’ve seen the huge influence Jamie Roberts had in a short time here two years ago and expect Alapati to play a similar role for us this season.

“We can’t wait to see the impact he will have here on and off the pitch,” he said.

Leiua said he wanted to make the most of this opportunity to play for the reigning champions United Rugby Championship.

“We all saw this team play amazing rugby last season and I want to add to that with my skills. It’s a great opportunity to work with talented young players and experience a whole new culture of rugby, so I I can’t wait to get back there,” he said.

The Stormers were one of the most popular teams in the URC last season

More than 34 million fans tuned into the inaugural season of the United Rugby Championship (URC) as the league set a number of major broadcast records in its maiden campaign, it was confirmed on Wednesday.

With records set for the public throughout the season, Play-Off viewers and the URC Grand Final itself, it’s clear the new 16-team league has captured the imagination of fans of northern and southern hemisphere rugby.

Despite the reduction of the regular season to 18 rounds, the strong viewing figures produced in the UK, Ireland and South Africa prove that less is more. In further momentum, Italy recorded its biggest ever audiences, while international rights coverage and the launch of the URC.tv streaming service bolstered the global total.

In its first season, the United Rugby Championship was supported by free-to-air (FTA) broadcasters in the UK, Ireland and Italy – BBC Wales, BBC Northern Ireland, Mediaset, RTÉ, S4C and TG4 and by major SuperSport pay-TV companies. (South Africa) and Premier Sports (UK and Ireland).

This mix of broadcast platforms allowed fans to enjoy increasing production standards while the crossover and collaboration between different territories gave the league a truly global feel.

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THE NUMBERS BEHIND URC’S RECORD AUDIENCES

Regular season

Thanks to consolidated reports from Nielsen Sports, one of the world’s leading broadcast reporting agencies, the United Rugby Championship can confirm that viewership for the full 2021/22 season has reached a high level of 34.6 million over 7,000 hours of coverage.

This figure of 34.6m was an increase of 169% compared to the 2020/21 PRO14 and Rainbow Cup campaigns combined.

  • The cumulative average viewership per match during the season was 230k who represented a 109% increase on 20/21.
  • A cumulative audience of nearly 3 million people listened to Round 3 with the figure of 2,892,000 setting a new viewership record for a single round in league history.
  • A total of four rounds eclipsed an audience of 2 millionsseven towers attracted more than 1.5 million and 6 of the remaining 7 series all attracted a minimum audience of 1 million.
  • Average viewership per set in the regular season was 1.7 million.
  • Italy’s cumulative audience was 1.6 million.

URC Grand Final and Play-Offs

The first-ever United Rugby Championship Grand Final took place in Cape Town, South Africa, between the Stormers and the Bulls and set a new televised milestone for the league.

A total of 1.25 million saw the DStormers win their first URC title and set a new record for league decider. Although the Grand Final was an all-South African affair 41% of the audience came from outside the territory, with RTÉ’s live coverage in the Republic of Ireland representing 15%.

This trend of interest was a feature of the entire URC Play-Offs which also set an audience record with 3.8 million in seven games. The highest number of viewers for the Play-Offs came in the Stormers v Ulster Final Four game where the audience hit 754k while the other semi-final encounter between Leinster and the Bulls drew 472k.

Including the URC Grand Final, the average viewership per game for the Play-Offs was 537k

Top 10 most watched regular season games in 2021/22

In the Top 10 most watched games of the regular season, Munster featured five times, the Sharks have been involved in three with Ospreys, Ulster and the Stormers have appeared twice.

The most-watched game of the regular season was Ospreys 3rd round match with the Sharks which was viewed by a combined audience of 581k on BBC Wales, SuperSport and Premier Sports.

  1. R3 Ospreys vs. Cell C Sharks 580,026
  2. R3 Cardiff v Vodacom Bulls 560,886
  3. R2 Munster v DHL Stormers 538,909
  4. R6 Cell C Sharks vs. Scarlets 531,421
  5. R10 Munster v Ulster 523,707
  6. R4 Munster v Connacht 521,110
  7. R1 Munster v Cell C Sharks 484,267
  8. R5 Ospreys v Munster 480,652
  9. R4 Ulster v Emirates Lions 468,993
  10. R4 Dragons vs. DHL Stormers

Most Watched Clubs

Aided by their participation in the VURC Grand Final, the Stormers were the most-watched team in the league with a total viewership of over 7.2 million. The URC champions are watched by the Bulls, Munster, Sharks and Leinster for the public throughout the season.

The Stormers and Munster were the most watched teams in South Africa and Ireland, respectively with Ospreys leading interest in Wales, benetton were number 1 in Italy and Edinburgh top of the list in Scotland.

The Derby matches which are at the heart of tribal rivalries in the VURC also fared well with only one South African game breaking the dominance of the all-Irish clashes.

Top 5 Derby audiences

The most-watched derby games of the season all took place in Ireland, with Munster’s R10 clash with Ulster drawing 523k in a match that was also No. 5 in the top 10 most-watched list in regular season. Munster also feature in four of the derby’s top 5 audiences.

  • R10 Munster v Ulster 523,707
  • R4 Munster v Connacht 521,110
  • R16 Ulster v Munster 428,709
  • R15 Munster v Leinster 402,534
  • R6 Leinster v Ulster 401,603

Top 5 games from South Africa

  • R6 Cell C Sharks vs. Scarlets 531,421
  • R17 DHL Stormers v Leinster 417,323
  • R7 Emirates Lions v Munster 394,416
  • R16 Cell C Sharks v Leinster 361,290
  • R17 Vodacom Bulls v Glasgow Warriors 323,386

Ireland’s top 5 games

  • R2 Munster v DHL Stormers 538,909
  • R10 Munster v Ulster 523,707
  • R4 Munster v Connacht 521,110
  • R1 Munster v Cell C Sharks 484,267
  • R4 Ulster v Emirates Lions 468,993

Top 5 games from Italy

  • R11 Zebre v Munster 439,701
  • R1 Zebre vs Emirates Lions 295,647
  • R1 Benetton v DHL Stormers 213,754
  • R10 Benetton v Cell C Sharks 202,283
  • R4 Benetton v Ospreys 196,817

Top 5 games in Scotland

  • R3 Edinburgh v DHL Stormers 382,185
  • R3 Glasgow Warriors v Emirates Lions 363,674
  • R4 Edinburgh v Vodacom Bulls 260,448
  • R5 Glasgow Warriors v Leinster 224,494
  • R2 Glasgow Warriors vs Cell C Sharks 209,027

Top 5 Wales games

  • R3 Ospreys vs. Cell C Sharks 580,026
  • R3 Cardiff v Vodacom Bulls 560,886
  • R5 Ospreys v Munster 480,652
  • R4 Dragons vs. DHL Stormers
  • R3 Scarlets v Munster 330 313

Chester T. Johnson