JOHANNESBURG – Johan Ackermann’s wish of having a sold-out Ellis Park for his last game in charge of the Lions will come true on Saturday.
Ackermann will be in charge for the final time when his team host the seven-time champions, the Crusaders, at 4pm on Saturday, with the Super Rugby title on the line.
Next week, the popular Lions boss will head to Gloucester in England, where he will take up a position of head coach for the next three years.
His current assistant, Swys de Bruin, will take over the Lions hot seat.
The Lions confirmed on Monday afternoon that they’ll hit the 62 000-capacity mark on Saturday.
“It’s amazing... I’m so grateful to be in the final again,” said Ackermann after the Lions had downed the Hurricanes in last Saturday’s semi-final, the same team that beat them in the 2016 final, albeit in Wellington.
Only 32 000 fans turned up last Saturday to watch the match, a thriller which saw the Lions come back from being 22-3 down to win 44-29.
The previous week, in the quarter-final against the Sharks, 29 000 watched from the stands.
“It’s the dream finish, to play in front of a full Ellis Park. You can’t ask for more, it’s the ultimate. It’s unreal... because it’s the way I always wanted to finish here, especially after the special journey we have been on over the last few years.”
The fans started queuing and buying tickets for the final on Saturday evening already, just minutes after the remarkable comeback victory against the Hurricanes.
By mid-day on Monday, 50 000 tickets had been sold, and by the afternoon, they’d all been snapped up.
The Lions and Crusaders go into the final having both only lost once in round-robin play this year, the visitors from Christchurch edging the Chiefs last weekend to qualify for their 12th final.