The entire Test series against the British & Irish Lions will now be played in Cape Town
SA Rugby and the British & Irish Lions on Tuesday confirmed that agreement had been reached to conclude the series in the Mother City‚ which back in 2009 when the Lions last visited here‚ did not host a Test.
The series was scheduled to return to Gauteng following the first Test in Cape Town on Saturday but both those Tests earmarked for FNB Stadium will now be played at Cape Town Stadium.
The Lions‚ mainly through coach Warren Gatland have agitated for the entire series to be played in Cape Town. Apart from steering clear of the epicentre of the country's infection rate the Lions will now also avoid playing the Springboks at altitude and can take in whatever they can from the 'Fairest Cape'.
SA Rugby said in a statement the decision to remain in Cape Town was made following extensive consultation with medical experts on the risks associated with the delta variant of Covid-19.
“The data pointed in only one direction‚” said Jurie Roux‚ chief executive of SA Rugby.
“The Series has already been significantly disrupted by Covid-19 and a return to Gauteng at this time would only increase the risks.
“We now have two teams in bio secure environments without any positive cases or anyone in isolation. To now return to the highveld would expose the Series to renewed risk.
“Everyone wants to see the two squads‚ at their strongest‚ playing out an unforgettable Series over the next three weekends and this decision gives us the best opportunity to see that happen.”
Ben Calveley‚ managing director for The British & Irish Lions‚ said: “We are fully supportive of this decision which we believe to be in the best interest of the Test series.”
Roux thanked Gauteng and the City of Cape Town for their flexibility and understanding to accommodate the late change of plan.
“We have had great support from local government‚ and I’d like to thank both Gauteng and the City of Cape Town for their open-minded engagement in what has been a very challenging time‚” said Roux.
“Extraordinary times have called for extraordinary measures and we have had support from all our commercial partners despite the challenges.”
Roux thanked Tsogo Sun in particular – the official hotel partner of the series – who have had to make last-minute changes to their operational planning while requiring their own staff to remain in ‘hard bubbles’.
This Saturday's first Test will be following by Tests on 31 July and 7 August.