15-17 February 2024

“On The Bank” breaks new Dusi ground

The FNB Dusi takes place in February next year, but if Thursday evening’s FNB “On the Bank” Live Chat Show, held at Natal Canoe Club (NCC) in Pietermaritzburg, is anything to go by, Dusi fever is already building and building fast.

The event, which also featured the Ozzie Gladwin Dice and the last of the FNB Dusi Roadshows, including the Hansa Promo, drew a jam-packed crowd to the home of the Dusi. It’s the fullest the club has been and there was a big buzz, a good vibe for the beginning of the river season,” Olympic medallist Bridgitte Hartley, a member of NCC, said.

The numbers who watched the show online were also impressive, better even than had previously been produced by the Dusi daily highlights on television, and the attention was not only local. A global audience, including viewers from Europe, the UK and North America, logged in to watch the show.

Leading canoeing commentator Dave Macleod, a Dusi Rat, hosted the show with four-time Dusi winner, Ant Stott, and enjoyed the experience. “Technically, it was something we hadn’t done before, involving people interacting on social media, through Facebook and Twitter, and sending in questions by SMS and e-mail. That turned out to be interesting because it definitely engineered the discussion into specific directions. It was fun,” he said.

“All the paddlers pitched and they pitched with the right attitude,” he added. “They were very frank and honest, and very lively when they had to be. Gauging from the people that were there watching, they seemed to thoroughly enjoy it.”

The guests included Andy Birkett, Lance Kime, Sbonelo Khwela, Banetse Nkhoesa, Abby Solms, Cana Peek, Ant Stott, former rugby star turned paddler Justin Swart on behalf of First National Bank, and Russell Hunt from South African Breweries.

Five-time Dusi champion Andy Birkett commented: “It was an exciting new concept. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I think it was a good show. It was quite a spectacle and quite a lot of fun so, hopefully, they do another one in the future.”

“I was really impressed,” he said about the sizeable gathering. “It was nice to see so many people turn out to support the new idea.”

NCC General Manager Brett Austen Smith enthused: “It was a fantastic experience, and certainly the feedback we have had from the people that were watching it live has been very positive. They were really enthusiastic about the initiative and the idea,”

Macleod concluded: “I have no doubt that this is the way to go. I am just glad that the FNB Dusi has woken up first from a paddling point of view and realised that they have got to do it. It was a leap of faith for them to do it, moving away from traditional TV. I think it took courage to do that. The feedback we’ve got so far looks very positive.”

Summing up the success of the concept, Hartley said it enabled the FNB Dusi to target its audience at a time of its own choosing, rather than the show being stuck at a very late hour on television. The viewing numbers proved the Internet approach had worked.