Crowd chooses between codes

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Southland Sharks' Australian import Jarrad Weeks heads for the basket in a National Basketball League fixture at ILT Stadium Southland. Photo: Monica Toretto

SOUTHLAND Sharks general manager Jill Bolger is hoping a scheduling clash with a Highlanders rugby game won’t have a major impact on the Sharks crowd numbers tonight.

Southland will take on the Wellington Saints in an intriguing National Basketball League (NBL) showdown at ILT Stadium Southland in Invercargill.

The two teams squared off in last year’s NBL final and both are looming as likely play-off teams this year as well.

Across town, another sporting event will be staged tonight with the Highlanders taking on a French Barbarians team at Rugby Park.

Bolger said they had initially been budgeting on a big crowd for the Sharks-Saints clash given the quality of the two teams.

“I’m hoping we can get a good crowd. This is always one of the biggest clashes for us.”

Bolger admitted they were caught off guard when the Highlanders game against the French Barbarians was announced.

The Highlanders approached the Sharks about the prospect of playing the NBL game at an earlier time, but Bolger said that was not possible for various reasons, including the live-streaming.

“We have had a corporate group who have halved their numbers because some are going to the rugby, so I’m not sure what effect it will have.”

The Sharks have partnered with four Invercargill schools in a promotion to try and help boost numbers for tonight’s game.

The Sharks have provided the schools with discounted tickets so those schools can sell the tickets as a fundraiser.

“We just want the stadium to be pumping [tonight].”

Bolger said she would not have firm figures until the end of the season, but after six home games this year it seemed crowd numbers were down.

“I’m guessing we have probably been around that 1300-mark when we were hoping and budgeting for 1800-2000,” she said.

Today’s game will tip off at 7pm.

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