British & Irish Lions

Revised Lions tour schedule confirmed: All matches to take place in Gauteng and Cape Town

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British & Irish Lions fans (Getty)
British & Irish Lions fans (Getty)

SA Rugby and the British and Irish Lions confirmed a revised tour schedule on Friday, with all eight matches to be staged in Gauteng and Cape Town.

On the previous schedule, the Lions would have played a South Africa 'Invitational' team at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Gqeberha, the Sharks at Kings Park in Durban and a South Africa 'A' side in Mbombela.

However, due to efforts to minimise the risks of disruption that could be caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the schedule now accommodates stable team bases and training venues and significantly reduces travel.

The series will now kick-off in Gauteng (rather than Cape Town) with three matches against provincial opposition before moving to Cape Town for two more warm-up matches before the first Test at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday 24 July.

The series then returns to Johannesburg for the second and third Tests at FNB Stadium.

There is one team change in the revised schedule with the Lions replacing the SA 'Invitational' team. The adjustment was made to reduce the risks associated with drawing a squad from around the country.

SA Rugby said it was organising all games in the schedule to comply with the regulations on attendance as will apply at the time of play.

"We’re delighted to be able to finally confirm the revised schedule after months of scenario planning and shifting circumstances," said SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux.

"It has been a challenging process with dozens of variables to consider but we believe we have arrived at a schedule that minimises the risks associated with the pandemic.

"We are hopeful that restrictions on attendance at sports events will be relaxed but, for the moment, we are planning for a behind closed doors event. If that requirement changes, then we’ll assess the options available and make the necessary decisions based on the restrictions in place.

"I would like to thank our supporters and commercial partners for their patience over these many months. This is not the Lions Series we imagined when we started our planning more than two and a half years ago but, in the circumstances, I think it is an exciting prospect.

"After all the uncertainty it’s a relief to be able to put a stake in the ground and confirm what the series will look like – I’m sure most of us can’t now wait for kick off."

Ben Calveley, British and Irish Lions managing director, said: "The Covid-19 pandemic has caused considerable disruption to the global sporting calendar, but after discussions with our partners at SA Rugby, we are very pleased to be able to confirm the revised tour schedule.   

"While things will undoubtedly look different to a typical Lions tour, together with SA Rugby we are determined to deliver an uninterrupted series for the players who will take the field, as well as the many millions of people watching at home.

"We would like to thank all Lions supporters for their patience and understanding as we continue to navigate our way through the impact of the pandemic, and also extend our enormous gratitude to our commercial partners for their incredible ongoing support."

Roux said the priority throughout had been to ensure Lions tour went ahead and thanked the staffs of the unique joint venture (that was established to run the tour) for the hard work and sleepless nights they had endured to arrive at a workable solution.

"The scenarios changed on a weekly basis with options on three different continents workshopped and interrogated over the past few months to reach this point," said Roux.

"Throughout we have had a single-minded goal to ensure the Series went ahead. The British and Irish Lions only visit our shores once every 12 years and to deny our players and our supporters the opportunity of sharing in the experience of what is invariably an event passes into folklore would have been a devastating blow.

"We’re now ready to deliver the series."

All ticket holders for the original schedule will receive a full refund. SA Rugby also confirmed that SA resident ticket holders would have first right to purchase tickets for the revised schedule if restrictions on attendance at sports events were lifted.

Full Lions tour 2021 matches:

Saturday 3 July: Lions v The British & Irish Lions (Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg) KO 18:00 (SAT) / 17:00 (BST)

Wednesday 7 July: Sharks v The British & Irish Lions (Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg) KO 20:00 (SAT) / 19:00 (BST)

Saturday 10 July: Bulls v The British & Irish Lions (Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria) KO 18:00 (SAT) / 17:00 (BST)

Wednesday 14 July: South Africa ‘A’ v The British & Irish Lions (Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town) KO 20:00 (SAT) / 19:00 (BST)

Saturday 17 July: Stormers v The British & Irish Lions (Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town) KO 18:00 (SAT) / 17:00 (BST)

Saturday 24 July: Springboks v The British & Irish Lions (1st Test, Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town) KO 18:00 (SAT) / 17:00 (BST)

Saturday 31 July: Springboks v The British & Irish Lions (2nd Test, FNB Stadium, Johannesburg) KO 18:00 (SAT) / 17:00 (BST)

Saturday 7 Aug: Springboks v The British & Irish Lions (3rd Test, FNB Stadium, Johannesburg) KO 18:00 (SAT) / 17:00 (BST)

- SA Rugby.

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