Gauteng and Cape Town to host British and Irish Lions series in revised schedule
All the eight matches of the British and Irish Lions series will be played in Gauteng and Cape Town to minimise the risks of disruption that could be caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
This was jointly confirmed by SA Rugby and the British and Irish Lions when they announced the revised schedule on Friday to accommodate stable team bases‚ training venues and reduction of travelling.
Gauteng venues are Ellis Park‚ FNB Stadium and Loftus Versfeld while the Cape Town Stadium will host matches in the Mother City and orgnaisers are still hoping to have fans in the stadiums.
The series will now kick off in Gauteng with three matches against provincial opposition and move to Cape Town for two more warm-up matches before the first Test at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday 24 July.
The series will then return to Johannesburg for the second and third Tests at the FNB Stadium.
There is one team change in the revised schedule with the Lions replacing the SA Invitational team and the adjustment was made to reduce the risks associated with drawing a squad from around the country.
“We’re delighted to be able to finally confirm the revised schedule after months of scenario planning and shifting circumstances‚” said SA Rugby chief executive 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 an event behind closed doors.
“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 Castle Lager 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.”
British and Irish Lions Managing Director Ben Calveley 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 give confirmation of 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 added that the priority throughout had been to ensure the series went ahead and he 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.”
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.
The Revised Lions Series Saturday 3 July: Lions v British and Irish Lions (Ellis Park‚ 6pm) Wednesday 7 July: Sharks v British and Irish Lions (Ellis Park‚ 7pm) Saturday 10 July: Bulls v British and Irish Lions (Loftus Versfeld‚ 6pm) Wednesday 14 July: South Africa ‘A’ v British and Irish Lions (Cape Town Stadium‚ 8pm) Saturday 17 July: Stormers v British and Irish Lions (Cape Town Stadium‚ 6pm) Saturday 24 July: Springboks v British and Irish Lions (1st Test‚ Cape Town Stadium‚ 6pm) Saturday 31 July: Springboks v British and Irish Lions (2nd Test‚ FNB Stadium‚ 6pm) Saturday 7 Aug: Springboks v British and Irish Lions (3rd Test‚ FNB Stadium‚ 6pm)