British & Irish Lions

Coronavirus | '2021 Lions tour could save SA rugby'

Raymond van Niekerk (Gallo Images)
Raymond van Niekerk (Gallo Images)

The British & Irish Lions' scheduled tour to South Africa next year could be a saving grace for the local game which is currently laid low by the coronavirus.

That is the view of Raymond van Niekerk, board member of the professional arm of WP Rugby.

"If the Lions tour generates a lot of income then it could save the game in South Africa. Everyone in the game around the world is under pressure. If you get a big financial incentive, it will offer a golden opportunity to save the industry - which takes to heart the interests of the franchise teams, players, supporters and interested parties," Van Niekerk told Netwerk24.

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The Lions last toured these shores in 2009 when the Springboks claimed a 2-1 series victory.

It remains uncertain for how long the game will be disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, but it is certain to have dire financial implications.

Van Niekerk said SA Rugby was hard at work, along with its stakeholders, to plot a way forward for the game.

Some European clubs have already indicated that their players would have to take pay cuts, however that is unlikely to happen in South Africa, Van Niekerk believes.

"We're not close to cutting players' salaries. We have a good relationship with our players. The issue is nothing that they could have controlled. There's a big difference compared to overseas clubs who are privately owned. They move quickly and ruthlessly. We are more people-oriented because the provincial unions are involved. We want to limit the negative impact on players and personnel as much as possible."

- Compiled by Sport24 staff

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