The Highlanders are enjoying a massive boost in support this season.
Home crowds are up an impressive 70 percent following the move from Carisbrook to Forsyth Barr stadium, with Otago University students making themselves at home.
They call it ‘The Zoo’ - the West Stand at Dunedin's covered stadium, now the place to party when the Highlanders are in town.
“Well the animals down this end generate a lot of noise and support for the players, but they also generate a lot of excitement and entertainment I suppose for the rest of the crowd,” says Highlanders general manager Roger Clark.
Fans have bought into the marketing concept, with plenty of colour and creative costumes.
The zoo’s occupants are part of a huge increase in Highlanders crowds, up over 5,000 a game this season.
Players have also been connecting with the community, like at a body painting promo for Otago Hospice.
They say the vocal support gives them a boost.
“Oh its awesome man eh, the boys love it,” says wing Hosea Gear.
“I think just their commitment and passion it's been good, and hopefully from a player perspective we've lived up to some of their hype,” says forward James Haskell.
Head 'Zookeeper' Billy Napier sees it as the new terraces.
“Yeah well I guess we wanted to link into that tradition that we did have, and we wanted to create maybe a new tradition with the students,” says Napier.
But there's one tradition missing from the Carisbrook days - no couches - although the students say they always have one waiting to ignite on their way out.
The stadium may have changed, but the students are trying not to.
source: newshub archive