I suppose, that after the poor attendances in the play-offs so far, Sanzaar are entitled to trumpet the sell-out crowd for the Lions v Crusaders final on Saturday.
The simple fact is – so it should be!
Apart from the World Cup and Rugby Championship it is the biggest game in Southern Hemisphere rugby. Even better it features two major protagonists and a host of international players who will face each other again when the Rugby Championship starts later this month.
The stadium will be overwhelmingly dominated by South Africans – including the ref, TMO and one of the assistants!
Even those Crusader fans who want to travel have been stymied by changes in the Visa regulations –
Because a 20-year visa-free travel arrangement between South Africa and New Zealand has ended, Kiwis now require a three-month holiday visa to visit the Republic; and as passionate Crusaders fan Grant Golding has discovered, getting one at short notice is very difficult.
After the Crusaders beat the Chiefs in the semifinal at AMI Stadium last weekend, Golding contacted the South African High Commission in Wellington to ask about securing the documentation to travel to the Republic.
He was told that the only hope of getting the documentation fast-tracked was if he a family emergency in South Africa. Golding didn’t apply for the visa earlier because he was uncertain where, or if, the Crusaders would play the final.
Good luck to the officials staying entirely neutral with 60,000 plus screaming at every decision that is in anyway against the Lions.
I remember the last game in the Lions ’74 tour when the South African ref denied a try by Fergus Slattery that would have given the Lions the win and not a draw – when Willie John asked him about the decision his reply was telling!
“Fergie [Fergus Slattery] went over in the last minute and the ref disallowed it. When we spoke to the referee afterwards he said, ‘Look boys, I have to live here.’ Fair enough, I suppose.”
Jaco Peyper is a top ref, but he should never have been put in this position!