Lions: Pricey tickets selling like hotcakes
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Pricey tickets are not a deterrent for Lions fans, hoping to see their team reach a Super Rugby Final for the first time since 1995.
Some season-ticket holders are up in arms, yet the public are still snapping up the most expensive tickets at Ellis Park and the stadium may well have the biggest Super Rugby crowd since the team's readmission in 2013.
The hike in ticket prices for the Lions' Super Rugby semifinal encounter with the defending champion Highlanders on Saturday were not universally accepted.
The biggest outcry came from season ticket holders - who wanted a drop in prices for their tickets, with a suggestion of free admission for scholars.
The argument was that the high ticket prices will see the game being played in front of empty stands.
However, nothing could be further from the truth.
By lunchtime on Wednesday 32,500 tickets had been sold across all platforms, according to Edgar Rathbone - Chief Financial Officer of the Golden Lions Rugby Union.
Last week, ahead of the quarterfinal against the Crusaders ticket prices were ZAR60, ZAR100, ZAR150 and ZAR250. The crowd was a rather disappointing 30,000.
For Saturday's semifinal they are ZAR80, ZAR120, ZAR250 and ZAR350.
Despite this hike the prediction is that Saturday could see more than 50,000 spectators cheer on the home team.
The biggest surprise is that the ZAR350 tickets have almost been sold out.
The bulk of the available tickets are in the ZAR80 and ZAR120 category.
The biggest Super Rugby crowd at Ellis Park in the professional era was the 53,000 for the Lions' promotion-relegation game against the Southern Kings in 2013.
The biggest crowd this season was the match against the Stormers, which drew over 40,000 spectators.
"It is ticking over nicely and we are selling at about 1,000 tickets every two hours," Rathbone said - adding that there is an interesting phenomenon in Johannesburg were sales tend to pick up on Thursday, Friday and matchday, Saturday.
On matchday the ticket office remain open till the gates open at about midday and then there are ticketing booths outside every entrance.
"There are still plenty of 'cheap' tickets available," Rathbone told rugby365.
The GLRU ticket prices have varied from game to game this season, but on average their most expensive tickets have been about ZAR120.
However, the most significant comparisons is with the Stormers' ticket prices for their quarterfinal loss to the Chiefs last week - where it ranged from ZAR85 to ZAR395 - which is more than the GLRU are charging for their semifinal tickets.
"Keep in mind this is our first semifinal in the professional era, so it is a big occasion," Rathbone said, adding: "The most expensive tickets [ZAR350] are close to being sold out.
"Yes, there are lots of complaints, yet the most expensive tickets are selling the best.
"For last week's quarterfinal 30,000 tickets were sold, with about 5,000 on matchday. The bulk of those were sold on Thursday and Friday.
"There are lots of arguments about making tickets ZAR40 or ZAR20 and have a sell-out crowd, but that is no guarantee. For the Sharks game this year all tickets behind the posts were ZAR20 and it still didn't sell out.
"It is a fact that the expensive tickets are selling the fastest."
* Meanwhile rugby365 and John Nicholas Analytics have again combined to make the Ellis Park visit more fun for our readers.
Readers attending the match must post a picture(s) of themselves in the reader's forum on the match report or on social media (Twitter and Facebook), with the hashtag #AtTheDen.
The best fan picture will win a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black courtesy of John Nicholas Analytics.
Let the fun begin!
By Jan de Koning