Durban’s hospitality always is. There aren’t many better places for sports teams when touring South Africa. Picture: Kim Ludbrook/EPA
Durban’s hospitality always is. There aren’t many better places for sports teams when touring South Africa. Picture: Kim Ludbrook/EPA

Shark attack need home fans for Lions

By Mark Keohane Time of article published Aug 16, 2020

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CAPE TOWN - Sharks CEO Eduard Coetzee has promised the British & Irish Lions that their visit to Durban in 2021 will be delightful away from the field.

Durban’s hospitality always is. There aren’t many better places for sports teams when touring South Africa.

On the field, at Jonsson Kings Park, Coetzee has forewarned the best of England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland to expect no favours when the Cell C Sharks host the famed men in red on 10th July.

Coetzee joined the chorus of every other influential rugby voice in South Africa in urging rugby supporters in KwaZulu-Natal to register ticket interest and ensure that the black and white colours of the home team snuffs out the expected travelling Lions sea of red.

The Lions, in 2009, hammered the Sharks 39-3 but lost to John Smit’s Springboks 26-21 in the first Test in Durban. Smit was outstanding, the Boks were brutal and the Lions simply refused to go away, despite the imposing Springboks start. The occasion rocked. It was a form of redemption for the Springboks after the Lions had claimed a series win against the Springboks at the same ground in 1997.

I was in the press box on both occasions but nothing could match the intensity of the 1997 evening when Lions and England midfielder Jeremy Guscott kicked a late drop goal to beat the Boks 18-15.

The Boks infamously scored three tries to nil but lost to five Neil Jenkins penalties and Guscott’s magical three pointer. Guscott’s midfield partner, Welshman Scott Gibbs, was thunderous in the Test and famously bounced Os du Randt. It was the first time I’d seen Os hammered in contact and the only other time I’d see the iconic Bok prop put on his backside in the tackle was when Samoan giant Henry Tuilagi introduced himself to Os and every Bok at the 2007 World Cup opener in Paris.

Durban hummed for the tourists in 1997 after their shock victory and while there was South African sanity in 2009, what still rankled with the South African players was the

sea of red at their home stadiums, be it the Tests or tour matches.

Springbok lock legend Victor Matfield, in a recent interview, spoke about the Durban Test in 2009 and also the bizarre experience of running out at his home ground Loftus Versfeld and hardly seeing a Springbok jersey in the crowd.

“We could have been playing at Twickenham or Cardiff,” said Matfield. ”I had never seen so much travelling support at a South African venue.’

Sharks players, involved in the 2009 match against the Lions, also speak about the absolute hollowness of trying to find their own supporters among the sea of red.

Coetzee is adamant that there can’t be a repeat of 2009 in 2021.

“This has to be a home game for the Sharks and the Lions must know that they’ve been in a game against one of the best teams in Super Rugby. There has to be a collective coming together of Sharks and South African supporters. We simply can’t be outnumbered at Jonsson Kings Park,” said Coetzee. “We know that the Lions supporters come en-masse but on the 10th July it has to be one where black and white dominate in the stands.

“We have a wonderful rugby culture and our current squad is exceptionally talented. We will show the Lions and their supporters the most amazing time as hosts, but for 80 minutes they must know they are playing an away match.”

Registration for the ticket ballot is the only way to stand a chance of getting a ticket and the rugby folk of Durban have to up their game. In the past few months, more than 40 000 South Africans registered an interest for tickets, but only five percent were from KwaZulu-Natal.

“We are busy announcing all our players who have committed past 2021, with many signing beyond 2023, so we will have a competitive team capable of performing against the best Europe can offer,” said Coetzee. “There are few occasions that can match a Sharks rugby occasion when the home support fills the stands. The rugby is always good and the party goes on late into the night. It is one of the great experiences for any rugby player.”

The Lions in the professional era have beaten the Sharks 42-12 (1997) and 39-3 (2009) in Durban and won one and lost one against the Springboks at Jonsson Kings Park.

*Register your interest at: www.lionstour2021.co.za.

Ticket prices, categories and hospitality packages will be made public prior to the ballot launch.

How Does the Ballot Process Work?

Applicants will use the ballot to apply for tickets to their preferred match, ticket category, ticket quantity and, where applicable, hospitality package.

After the ticket ballot application phase has been completed there will be a computerised selection process. Applicants will then be notified if they have been successful in securing their preferred tickets.

Why a Ticket Ballot?

The ballot system is used in all global major sporting events and is the fairest method of obtaining tickets.

Registration and entry into the ballot will not automatically entitle applicants to match-day tickets and the purpose of the registration and entry into the ballot places the applicant in the draw.

Full 2021 tour schedule:

Saturday 3 July: British & Irish Lions vs DHL Stormers - Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town

Wednesday 7 July: British & Irish Lions vs South Africa Invitational - Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth

Saturday 10 July: British & Irish Lions vs Cell C Sharks - Jonsson Kings Park, Durban

Wednesday 14 July: British & Irish Lions vs South Africa A - Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit

Saturday 17 July: British & Irish Lions vs Vodacom Bulls - Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria

Saturday 24 July (first Test): Springboks vs British & Irish Lions - FNB Stadium, Johannesburg

Saturday 31 July (second Test): Springboks vs British & Irish Lions - Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town

Saturday 7 August (third Test): Springboks vs British & Irish Lions - Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg.

@mark_keohane

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