British & Irish Lions

Springboks v Lions series to be moved to the UK as contingency plan?

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British Lions fans (Getty Images)
British Lions fans (Getty Images)

A fan shutout due to Covid-19 could see this year's Springboks v British & Irish Lions series played in the UK and Ireland.

According to BBC Sport, this is one of the contingency plans discussed by the Lions board in the event the tour has to be abandoned.

The report added that matches would be played in Edinburgh, London, Cardiff, and Dublin.

South Africa is currently in an adjusted Level 3 version of its national lockdown as the virus continues to sweep through the country at a worrying rate and with the second wave seemingly yet to reach its peak, the full magnitude of the damage caused by the virus or how long it will last is difficult to predict.

SA Rugby president Mark Alexander told Sport24 over the weekend that the tour would not be worthwhile if it was to happen behind closed doors with no spectators in attendance.

While a vaccine has already been introduced in the UK, South Africa looks to have some way to go before it can make one readily accessible to its masses.

"Yes, we are concerned," Alexander said. "The virus has already taken so much from rugby over the past year, but it is completely out of our control at the moment."

The BBC report added that the Lions board was also thought to be unenthusiastic about the idea of playing the series in the northern hemisphere.

It is hoped that a vaccine would allow for fans to attend matches in the UK by mid-year.

Alexander, meanwhile, added that any decisions on the tour would be taken by SA Rugby and the Lions together as part of the joint venture they have entered into.

Any final decisions would need to be taken by March at the latest. 

"It happens every 12 years and it is a very special tour for South Africans, but at this stage all we can really do is wait and see," Alexander said.

The Lions' first match in South Africa is scheduled for 3 July against the Stormers in Cape Town.

Full 2021 British & Irish Lions tour schedule:

- Saturday 26 June: British & Irish Lions v Japan - Murrayfield, Edinburgh
- Saturday 3 July: British & Irish Lions v Stormers - Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town
- Wednesday 7 July: British & Irish Lions v South Africa 'Invitational' - Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth
- Saturday 10 July: British & Irish Lions v Sharks - Kings Park, Durban
- Wednesday 14 July: British & Irish Lions v South Africa 'A' Team - Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit
- Saturday 17 July: British & Irish Lions v Bulls - Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
- Saturday 24 July (first Test): Springboks v British & Irish Lions - FNB Stadium, Johannesburg
- Saturday 31 July (second Test): Springboks v British & Irish Lions - Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town
- Saturday 7 August (third Test): Springboks v British & Irish Lions - Ellis Park, Johannesburg

- Compiled by Sport24 staff

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