Rugby fans increasingly well connected
A record number of rugby fans are expected to chase virtual rugby glory during this year's Rebel Sport Super 14 season.
Telecom Head of Sponsorship Alan Garner says growing demand for broadband should see the number of people playing Telecom Virtual Rugby's Super 14 competition rise above last year's record of more than 130,000 players.
"There's little doubt that virtual rugby has become New Zealand's biggest bragging rights competition and, considering the surge in demand for broadband in the past year, we're expecting about 150,000 people to vie for the virtual rugby title during the Rebel Sport Super 14.
"And, since being the country's top virtual rugby player carries such kudos, Telecom has commissioned a trophy, modelled on the actual Rebel Sport Super 14 trophy, to present to the overall winner," he said.
The overall winner will also receive a Ford vehicle previously driven by the captain of their favourite NZ Rebel Sport Super 14 team.
Hurricanes fans were seemingly the most connected supporters in 2005, making up 29% of virtual rugby players. Crusaders fans were 21% of virtual rugby players, Blues fans 20%, Chiefs fans 12% and the Highlanders 10%.
New Zealand Rugby Union Sponsorship and Marketing Manager Fraser Holland says the online competition has fast become something of a social phenomenon since it kicked off in 2002 with 37,000 registered players.
"Virtual rugby's easy to play and the addition of a 'mates' function, so you can see how you are faring in comparison to your friends and workmates, has proved the real making of the competition.
"Numerous workplaces now have groups of staff competing against each other and another emerging trend is for family members and friends separated by distance to compete against each other. It's a great way to keep up regular banter with those not in the same city," he said.
On average, virtual rugby players have 4.7 mates whom they track through a personalised leader-board. Hurricanes fans had the most virtual rugby mates in 2005 with an average of 5.4 mates per fan. Chiefs fans had an average of 5.3 mates, Crusaders fans 4.8, Blues fans 4.7, and Highlanders fans 4.5. Interestingly, Bulls fans had the most mates online, with an average of 7.9 mates per Bulls supporter, perhaps supporting the philosophy of keeping in touch with those separated by distance.
Telecom Virtual Rugby also transcends gender, geographic and age differences. About 35,000 women played virtual rugby last year and there were 6,500 players from overseas.
HOW TO PLAY
Telecom Virtual Rugby is easy to play, even for non-rugby followers.
First go to www.telecomvirtualrugby.co.nz and register your details, including choosing a player name.
Then, each week of the Rebel Sport Super 14 competition (from 10 February to 27 May), you log-in to pick which team will win the scheduled Super 14 matches and also pick the final score from the following options: a win by 12 points or less, a win by 13 or more, or a draw.
Players generally earn a maximum of 8 points per match: 5 for correctly picking the winning team and an extra 3 points for picking the correct point margin.
If you correctly pick a draw (draws being rare) you'll receive 16 points.
The deadline for making your picks is 6pm (NZ time) each Friday.