Despite reducing the regular season to 18 rounds, the strong viewership numbers produced across the UK, Ireland and South Africa prove that less is more. In a further boost, Italy reported their largest audiences ever while international rights coverage and the launch of the streaming service bolstered the global total.

In its first season, the Vodacom United Rugby Championship was supported by free-to-air (FTA) broadcasters in the UK, Ireland and Italy – BBC Wales, BBC Northern Ireland, Mediaset, RTÉ, S4C and TG4 – and by leading Pay TV companies SuperSport (South Africa) and Premier Sports (UK and Ireland).

This mix of broadcast platforms allowed fans to enjoy rising standards of production while the crossover and collaboration across different territories gave the league a truly global feel.

Martin Anayi, United Rugby Championship, CEO said: “We are blown away by the broadcast audiences in the first season of the Vodacom United Rugby Championship. It is a tremendous credit to the standard of rugby displayed by our teams and players and the superb work done by our broadcasters to showcase that talent.

“The URC offers a diversity in playing styles and cultures across two hemispheres that is unique in club rugby and we can see that fans in the north and south have been attracted to that. With a mix of Free to Air and Pay TV coverage allied to our increased presence in South Africa and record figures in Italy we have found a very effective formula to grow interest in our league and the sport of rugby union.”

The numbers behind the headlines are truly stellar and set a high benchmark for the URC, its teams, players, broadcasters and partners to aim for ahead of the new 2022/23 season.


Regular Season

Thanks to the consolidated reports from Nielsen Sports, one of the world’s leading agencies in broadcast reporting, the Vodacom United Rugby Championship can confirm that the audience for the entire 2021/22 season reached a high mark of 34.6million across 7,000-plus hours of coverage.

That figure of 34.6m was an increase of 169% compared to the 2020/21 PRO14 and Rainbow Cup campaigns combined.

  • The cumulative average audience per game during the season was 230k which represented a 109% increase on 20/21.
  • A cumulative audience of almost 3 million people tuned into Round 3 with the figure of 2,892,000 setting a new record for the highest audience for a single round in the league’s history.
  • In total, four rounds eclipsed an audience of 2 million, seven rounds drew more than 1.5 million and 6 of the remaining 7 rounds all attracted a minimum viewership of 1 million.
  • The average audience per round in the regular season was 1.7 million.
  • The cumulative audience from Italy was 1.6 million.

Vodacom URC Grand Final and Play-Offs

The first-ever Vodacom United Rugby Championship Grand Final took place in Cape Town, South Africa between the DHL Stormers and Vodacom Bulls and set a new TV milestone for the league.

A total of 1.25 million watched the DHL Stormers win their first Vodacom URC title and set a new record for the league decider. Although the Grand Final was an all-South African affair 41% of the audience came from outside of the territory with RTÉ’s live coverage in the Republic of Ireland accounting for 15%.

This trend of interest was a hallmark of the entire Vodacom URC Play-Offs which also set a record for viewership with 3.8 million across seven games. The largest viewership for the Play-Offs came in the DHL Stormers v Ulster Final Four game where the audience hit 754k while the other Semi-Final encounter between Leinster and the Vodacom Bulls drew 472k.

Including the Vodacom URC Grand Final, the average audience per game in the play-offs was 537k.

Top 10 most watched regular season games in 2021/22

In the Top 10 most watched games of the regular season, Munster featured five times, the Cell C Sharks were involved in three with Ospreys, Ulster and the DHL Stormers appeared twice.

The most watched game in the regular season was Ospreys’ Round 3 game with Cell C Sharks which was viewed by a combined audience of 581k on BBC Wales, SuperSport and Premier Sports.

  1. R3 Ospreys v Cell C Sharks - 580,026
  2. R3 Cardiff v Vodacom Bulls - 560,886
  3. R2 Munster v DHL Stormers - 538,909
  4. R6 Cell C Sharks v Scarlets - 531,421
  5. R10 Munster v Ulster - 523,707
  6. R4 Munster v Connacht - 521,110
  7. R1 Munster v Cell C Sharks - 484,267
  8. R5 Ospreys v Munster - 480,652
  9. R4 Ulster v Emirates Lions - 468,993
  10. R4 Dragons v DHL Stormers - 445,471

Most Watched Clubs

Helped by their appearance in the Vodacom URC Grand Final, the DHL Stormers were the most viewed team in the league with their total audience coming in at over 7.2million. The Vodacom URC champions are followed by the Vodacom Bulls, Munster, Cell C Sharks and Leinster for audiences across the entire season.

The DHL Stormers and Munster were the most watched teams in South Africa and Ireland, respectively with Ospreys leading the interest in Wales, Benetton were No 1 in Italy and Edinburgh topped the pile in Scotland.

Derby matches which are at the heart of the tribal rivalries in the Vodacom URC also performed well with only one South African fixture breaking the dominance of the all-Irish clashes.

Top 5 Derby Audiences

The most watched derby games of the season all took place in Ireland, with Munster’s R10 clash with Ulster drawing in 523k in a game that was also No 5 in the list of Top 10 most watched in the regular season. Munster also feature in four of the Top 5 derby audiences.

  • R10 Munster v Ulster - 523,707
  • R4 Munster v Connacht - 521,110
  • R16 Ulster v Munster - 428,709
  • R15 Munster v Leinster - 402,534
  • R6 Leinster v Ulster - 401,603

Top 5 Games from South Africa

  • R6 Cell C Sharks v Scarlets - 531,421
  • R17 DHL Stormers v Leinster - 417,323
  • R7 Emirates Lions v Munster - 394,416
  • R16 Cell C Sharks v Leinster - 361,290
  • R17 Vodacom Bulls v Glasgow Warriors - 323,386

Top 5 Games from Ireland

  • R2 Munster v DHL Stormers - 538,909
  • R10 Munster v Ulster - 523,707
  • R4 Munster v Connacht - 521,110
  • R1 Munster v Cell C Sharks - 484,267
  • R4 Ulster v Emirates Lions - 468,993

Top 5 Games from Italy

  • R11 Zebre v Munster - 439,701
  • R1 Zebre v Emirates Lions - 295,647
  • R1 Benetton v DHL Stormers - 213,754
  • R10 Benetton v Cell C Sharks - 202,283
  • R4 Benetton v Ospreys - 196,817

Top 5 Games from Scotland

  • R3 Edinburgh v DHL Stormers - 382,185
  • R3 Glasgow Warriors v Emirates Lions - 363,674
  • R4 Edinburgh v Vodacom Bulls - 260,448
  • R5 Glasgow Warriors v Leinster - 224,494
  • R2 Glasgow Warriors v Cell C Sharks - 209,027

Top 5 Games from Wales

  • R3 Ospreys v Cell C Sharks - 580,026
  • R3 Cardiff v Vodacom Bulls - 560,886
  • R5 Ospreys v Munster - 480,652
  • R4 Dragons v DHL Stormers - 445,471
  • R3 Scarlets v Munster - 330,313