There are a few sporting occasions in the world where ‘promotion’ is redundant. There is no point, for example, in hyping any of the golf ‘majors’, the Ryder Cup or the Ashes. Or any game involving Manchester United. It isn’t possible or necessary to sell the event, you can’t put more bums on seats or acquire more TV eyes.
A Test series between South Africa and England is in that category. It has the history and tradition which is a prerequisite for global interest and there is an edginess to the contest which means you daren’t look away for too long. Just think of Donald vs Atherton.
But there is another, vital ingredient which spreads far beyond the fanatical or merely enthusiastic followers of the game. Rarity. As with diamonds and friendly Johannesburg traffic officers, their scarcity makes us appreciate them so much more.
It is six years since England toured South Africa which also makes the players treasure the contest more than most. It used to be that way between the Springboks and All Blacks, but now they play each other four times a year and the magic has been heavily diluted. Although they cannot admit it in public, the Proteas and the Englishmen will take an intensity into the series rarely reached. They will tell you that every international is important, that every time they wear the Three Lions or the Proteas badge is as important as the last. But it isn’t.
The global television audience will stretch to hundreds of millions and, thanks to the traveling England fans, the only empty seats will belong to those standing in the beer queue. Even those who have visited Kingsmead for decades can count on the fingers of one hand the days when they have seen it full. The first two days, certainly, will be as close to capacity as any in the old stadium’s history.
Newlands, however, could have sold twice its capacity, literally. Some late-planners from England have been paying upwards of 200 pounds for a ticket, at least ten times face value.
There is a very great deal to look forward to!
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