Cape Town - Lions coach Johan Ackermann is surprised that some New Zealand rugby fans will seemingly be backing his side when they host the Crusaders in Saturday’s Super Rugby final in Johannesburg.
After the Hurricanes lost to the Lions in last weekend’s semi-finals, their captain Dane Coles seemingly pledged his team's support to the South Africans.
"I know the Hurricanes boys will be cheering on the Lions next week," said Coles in his post-match interview at Ellis Park. "They deserve to be there... they are a great side, I wish them all the best for next week."
Whether Coles’ comments were intended tongue-in-cheek was unclear, but they have certainly resonated with many Kiwis, with 30% backing the Lions in an NZ Herald online poll.
The issue was also discussed earlier this week on New Zealand rugby programme The Breakdown, which is hosted by former All Black wing Jeff Wilson.
On the show it was mentioned that there was a certain amount of jealousy amongst non-Crusaders fans in New Zealand, given the fact that the Christchurch-based franchise is the country’s most successful Super Rugby team with seven titles.
Ackermann was taken aback when asked why some Kiwis would be supporting his side on Saturday.
"I must be honest, I am surprised," Ackermann told New Zealand’s Radio Sport Breakfast.
"I've had the privilege of touring your wonderful country a lot of times and the one thing I know is New Zealanders are passionate about their rugby.
"You would think everybody would get behind the Crusaders. It's a surprise, but I suppose - you get it in South Africa as well - fans are so loyal for their provinces that they will shout for the opposition.”
Saturday’s Super Rugby final is scheduled for 16:00, with both teams to name their line-ups on Thursday.