Iconic Ellis Park finally finds its way into Super Rugby final history
Ellis Park has seen many a great game in its history‚ but never a Super Rugby final.
Some may argue that the 1993 Super 10 final between Transvaal and Auckland was the first-ever Super Rugby final‚ but that was a bygone era that paved the way to Springbok success at the World Cup two years later.
That said‚ Saturday’s final against the Crusaders (4pm) is an occasion that’s been embraced by Lions supporters who know how their success-starved team have been compared to the Bulls.
They had to watch the Bulls host a semifinal and a final in their Soweto backyard seven years ago. It goes without saying that the Lions were winless that season in what remains the worst campaign on record by any team.
Played 13‚ lost 13 with a truckload of tries and points conceded. The Lions were averaging 5000 supporters per game along with a few dogs who braved the spineless performances.
However‚ when you're down and out‚ as the Lions were at the time‚ the only thing that remains is to go up. The fact the Lions were able to sell out Ellis Park was testament to their recent success.
Even then‚ it needed a final to convince fans of selling out the stadium. The attendances in the other playoff games were disappointing by the nature of the fixtures but with the snaking queues after last week’s Lazarus win against the Hurricanes‚ the significance of the match was not lost to supporters.
For the first time in ages‚ Doornfontein was a sea of red that was heaving in expectation. It is an expectation built on two years of solid performances and growing a rose out of what was the concrete of Super Rugby relegation in 2012.
By fortune‚ sheer fortitude‚ planning and skill‚ the Lions muscled their way to the top of the Super Rugby pile.
What happens to them post-Johan Ackermann remains to be seen but Johannesburg can finally roar with pride. A jigsaw puzzle missing in Ellis Park’s venerable display was completed.
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