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Ellis Park's new Super record

Wed, 31 Jul 2013 09:06
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Lions fans speak with their feat
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Anything you can do, we can do better! This is the message, loud and clear, from Lions fans to their Southern Kings rivals.

The Kings have been praised for their good crowd attendances at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth, but the Lions will well and truly upstage them.

This website can reveal that Ellis Park will - on Saturday when the Lions host the Kings in their second-leg promotion-relegation match - set a new Super Rugby attendance record.

The 60,000-seater Ellis Park will put up the 'house full' signs well ahead of Saturday's 17.00 (15.00 GMT) kick-off.

All external ticket outlets were sold out by Tuesday and when the stadium offices opened Wednesday morning there were a mere 500 tickets available.

To put this into perspective, the Super Rugby Final between the Chiefs and Brumbies (also a sell-out) will be played in front of 25,000 spectators in Hamilton earlier on Saturday. The last ticket for that match was sold on Wednesday.

The current all-time record for a Super Rugby match is held, jointly, by the Bulls and Sharks - who sold out their 52,000-seater stadiums (Loftus Versfeld and Kings Park) for the 2009 and 2007 Super Rugby finals respectively.

The Bulls also sold out the Orlando Stadium (50,000) for the 2010 Final, while the Stormers can boast a few sell-out crowds at Newlands (capacity 48,000).

Obviously South Africa's stadium capacity is far superior to those in Australasia - where only ANZ in Sydney, Suncorp in Brisbane and Eden Park in Auckland can compare.

The SANZAR purists will also claim that Ellis Park on Saturday is not a Super Rugby match in the true sense, but given that they are playing for Super Rugby status it is indeed part of the competition.

The Kings have been the 'feel good' story of 2013, even though their last-place finish on the standings and last week's 19-26 loss to the Lions in the first leg of the promotion-relegation may not suggest that.

However, they have still managed to post two of the top five attendance figures of the season and an average of well over 30,000 per match for their eight home games.

The top crowd for 2013 belongs to the Bulls, who attracted 48,365 spectators to Loftus for their win over the Sharks on July 6.

The Stormers (against the Crusaders on March 30) are next best with their 47,263 (just a few hundred short of capacity), followed by the first of the Kings' two entries - 45,649 against the Bulls on April 20 (Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium has a capacity of 46,000). The Stormers also have two places in the 2013 top five - with their 45,416 against the Bulls on July 13 coming in at No.4. The Kings complete the top five with 45,098 for their July 6 encounter with the Stormers.

Saturday's sell-out crowd at Ellis Park will be a clear message to South African Rugby Union bosses that fans in Johannesburg want top-class rugby in their city as much as Kings fans want it in PE and they have the numbers to prove it.

The last time Ellis Park was full for a Lions game was the 2011 Currie Cup Final, when the Lions beat the Sharks 42-16.

By Jan de Koning

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