Super Rugby's organizers SANZAR have revealed that going into the break for the June Internationals all three territories were tracking beyond comparative numbers from this time last year.
Attendances have been strong, with many fixtures throughout the season setting new records for teams and grounds alike.
SANZAR CEO Greg Peters said this was further proof that Super Rugby was arguably the best international interprovincial competition in world rugby.
"This is the second year Super Rugby has been in its current conference guise with 15 teams, and it is pleasing to note that fans are registering their approval of the new format with record numbers," Peters said.
"The Conference system and increased local derbies are again showing the intense competition within each territory, with grounds, as well as our broadcasting partners revealing some stunning figures."
"Fox Sports in Australia, Sky Sports in New Zealand and SuperSport in South Africa have been thrilled with viewing numbers this season, and as a result our stakeholders have been pleased that the current format is yielding desired outcomes."
New Zealand has seen the biggest growth, with Peters stating that this was exactly the follow on from Rugby World Cup that had been hoped for.
"The Legacy Programme implemented by the New Zealand Rugby Union was designed to capture the effects of hosting the third largest sporting event in the world, and as a consequence New Zealanders are watching the game in record numbers."
The cumulative figure continues to rise for NZ with 9,916,300 fans tuning into the 100 matches played to date.
While 2011 had one less match played, with 99 matches played by end of Round 15, a total of 7,458,600 tuned in, seeing 2012 with a considerable increase of 32%.
A combined total of 538,959 NZ fans have attended 32 home matches (an average of 16,842 per match) over the first 15 weeks. That is two more matches than the 30 that were played by this time in 2011, with a total of 390,946 (average of 12,217 per match). This represents a 37% increase in average crowds per match.
Australia, the boom performer in 2011, spearheaded by the inaugural championship success of the Queensland Reds, has continued to turn in strong numbers.
"Numbers in Australia have been consistent with the remarkable results achieved in 2011, where the Reds title success resulted in new viewing records across the country, while Queensland Rugby has since turned in some great results off the field, maintaining record attendances while shattering membership numbers," Peters said.
After fifteen rounds a cumulative total of 5,888,000 fans have viewed the 100 Super Rugby matches in Australia. This average is only slightly down 3% on the highs of 2011 and has climbed considerably as the season progresses.
With 34 matches played on home soil, 633,847 Australian fans have attended Super Rugby matches to date (average 18,642 per match). 2011 at Round 15 was one game behind with 33 matches played, but was slightly ahead in the cumulative crowd with 640,910 attending those matches (average of 19,421 per match).
South African viewing numbers continued to increase, while their match attendances were slightly down compared with this time last season – but these figures are likely to change with a host of local derbies to come.
"Once again South Africa continues to pour in strong numbers" Peters said.
"While their numbers are down on this time last season in terms of ground attendance, we expect this figure to jump, especially considering some of the remaining derbies to come in the South African Conference."
A massive cumulative total of 34,074,497 South African fans have tuned into the 100 matches to date. By the end of Round 15 in 2011, 99 matches had been played with a total of 28,658,402 viewers. While only one game less had been played in 2011, the difference of 5,416,095 is a significant gap and therefore a great increase in viewership for South Africa compared to 2011.
(Please note that the SuperSport figures exclude HD viewership. There are over 400,000 HD households in SA, which if measured would add significantly to the viewership numbers.)
A total of 852,838 fans have attended the 32 matches played to date (an average of 26,651 per match). This is two matches less than the 34 that were played by the end of Round 15 in 2011 with a total of 914,249.
There have also been reports of some great viewing numbers in the United Kingdom, with BSkyB reporting an average of 35,000 live in-home viewers per Super Rugby match.
Peters said that the second stage of the 2012 Super Rugby season would only build the momentum seen over the first 15 rounds.
"With three rounds still to play, we have nine teams still in Super Rugby Finals Series calculations, a heady group including the defending champions, three former Super Rugby winners, and a collection of other contenders who have exceeded expectations this season," Peters said.
"What will make the run home special are the local derbies and that any team is capable of beating any other and upsetting the Finals Series contenders."