DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA - OCTOBER 27, during the Absa Currie Cup final match between The Sharks and DHL Western Province from Mr Price KINGS PARK on October 27, 2012 in Durban, South Africa Photo by Steve Haag / Gallo Images

Johannesburg – This year's Currie Cup competitions broke television broadcast records, the SA Rugby Union (Saru) announced on Friday.

An average of 525 000 viewers watched the 33 matches in the competition – an increase of 36% on the 2011 season average –

according to data produced by Repucom.

The average breached the 500 000-barrier for the first time, in a year that the competition format was reduced from eight teams to six.

“The return to a strength-versus-strength format intensified interest and the unpredictable nature of the games made for compelling viewing,” said Saru chief executive Jurie Roux.

“That accounted for the increased average audiences, but the fact that the average audience for the semi-finals and finals was also up by more than 200 000 viewers in comparison to 2011 tells its own story.”

Last weekend's final between the Sharks and Western Province attracted the largest ever audience for a Currie Cup match on SuperSport.

An average of 1.14 million viewers tuned in to the coverage with a peak audience of 1.3 million viewers.

The 36% growth in average audience was against the backdrop of a 24% growth in the available audience.

“The semi-final and final numbers are on a par with the biggest matches in Super Rugby,” Roux said.

“They confirm that the Currie Cup has lost none of its appeal for rugby supporters.”

Roux, however, said Saru was monitoring the fact that stadium attendance had declined in 2012.

He said it was a trend being experienced by a number of live sporting events.

“Whether it is a reflection of the general economic climate, the competition scheduling or of a wider phenomenon remains to be seen,” he said. – Sapa