Rugby fever is running high in Port Elizabeth ahead of the Southern Kings blockbuster Super Rugby showdown against a star-studded Sharks side at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium today.
Stunning wins over the Waratahs and the Melbourne Rebels have fired up Kings supporters and more than 20 000 fans are expected to flock to the stadium.
By late yesterday afternoon, officials said more than 16 000 tickets had already been sold.
Hopes are high that the in-form Kings can make history by beating a South African opposition for the first time in Super Rugby.
A social media campaign, #FILLOURSTADIUM, has fuelled interest in the game and Kings coach Deon Davids and Mayor Athol Trollip were at the Donkin Reserve on Wednesday when a giant flag was hoisted to promote the contest.
NMB Stadium’s business development manager, Raaziq Poole, has encouraged supporters to buy their tickets on time to avoid a rush and disappointment on match day.
“From the stadium’s side, we are ready to host the game. We are fully operational and are planning for big numbers to come,” Poole said.
Southern Kings chief operating officer Charl Crous said large crowds could be expected.
“The team has done very well and everybody knows the effort that they have put in, with the results that we have seen. It is not just the last two victories, but the on-field performances too. This is reward for all the hard work and effort,” Crous said.
“We encourage fans to come out in numbers and most importantly, to get their tickets early at any participating Ticket Pro outlets – these include Edgars Active, PostNet, Jet Mart, Engen and Caltex outlets – to avoid the rush on match day, although our ticket office will be selling tickets,” Poole said.
Coach Davids said one of his team’s goals at the start of the season had been to gain more support from Eastern Cape rugby fans.
“We wanted to get more support back into the stadium to play for the metro and the franchise and this is a step in the right direction in what we have set out to achieve,” he said.
The Kings are facing a tough clash against a star-studded Sharks team who will attempt to use their pack to dominate the home team.
The day will start with a match between the EP Academy and Stellenbosch Academy on the B-field at 12.30pm.
This will be followed by a SuperSport Rugby Challenge clash between the EP Kings and Border Bulldogs, which kicks off at 2.30pm.
Tickets cost R60 for east stand seating, while a spot in the west stand costs R80.
There will be a fan park with a beer garden and live music.