Entry is free when Auckland host Canterbury in the Mitre 10 Cup premiership final at Eden Park on Saturday, but supporters are encouraged to get to the game early as Auckland Rugby have no idea how many will take up the offer.

And in what could be another incentive to attend the match between two very old rivals which will kick off at 4.05pm, the Eden Park hierarchy are in discussions about the potential to allow patrons on to the pitch to watch the Bledisloe Cup test between the All Blacks and Wallabies in Yokohama on the big screens afterwards.

That test kicks off at 7pm – a near clash which is one of the reasons why Auckland Rugby have decided to throw open the gates. There will be a few hoops to jump through yet – the organisation have to get sign off from New Zealand Rugby and Sky TV – but the concept is intriguing and could potentially generate a lot of interest.

Eden Park chief executive Nick Sautner told Radio Sport today: "There are a few things that we need to get in place to make sure that everyone's happy, but I'm very confident. Let's hope the weather's great and we get a big turnout and then people can sit out on the field and watch the game from Japan."


It all adds up to what could be a challenging logistical exercise for the Eden Park staff. Fans will be expected to go through the usual turnstiles – no ticket necessary – in order for numbers to be monitored.

But Auckland Rugby chief executive Jarrod Bear has admitted that even a rough estimate of the crowd is difficult.

"Given we've never opened the gates before [for free entry], and I'm not sure there's been an event like it, really we have no historical data to be able to forecast it," Bear told Radio Sport. "We just hope everyone enjoys the opportunity and takes it up and gets behind the team."

The concept probably goes against Marketing 101 too; that being if something is given away for free then it has no perceived value. It is also clear that Auckland Rugby will take a financial hit – they will receive no ticket money and yet face the same costs associated with hosting a game at Eden Park.

An average crowd for an Auckland game at Eden Park would be around the 10,000 mark. On Saturday there could be at least twice, if not three times, as many there.

One group who won't be disadvantaged are season ticket holders; their passes were reactivated without charge for last weekend's semifinal win over Wellington and will be again for Saturday's match. They have set seats outside members' lounges which aren't accessible by the general public.

Bear said the free entry idea was generated by Auckland Rugby's board. "It's been really positive and we're excited about being able to give back to our supporters," he said. "We want to get as many people as possible along on Saturday to shout for our team."

Asked whether there were any downsides, Bear said: "I'm not sure there was anything that freaked out anybody in the discussion because for us we want to put Auckland Rugby back on the map and really engage with our supporters but also the wider community in Auckland and break down the barriers [which have prevented them from] coming along, and give them a chance to experience Eden Park and an Auckland team in a final.


"We can only suggest that people get here early before what could be a mad rush."