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Gatland's Lions to face Super Rugby sides and South Africa 'A' in 2021

The touring side have announced details of a reduced eight-game tour in South Africa.

WARREN GATLAND’S BRITISH and Irish Lions will face three Super Rugby sides, South Africa ‘A’ and a South Africa ‘Invitational’ team on their shortened eight-game tour in 2021.

The Lions tour has been reduced from its previous 10-game format, with Gatland’s men set to have five warm-up games before their three-Test series against the Springboks in two summers’ time.

The tourists will kick off against Super Rugby’s Sharks on 3 July before clashing with an ‘Invitational’ South Africa team four days later.

warren-gatland-speaks-to-the-team Warren Gatland will lead the Lions again in 2021. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Fixtures against the Sharks, South Africa ‘A’, and the Bulls will provide the rest of the preparation before the first of three Tests against Rassie Erasmus’ Boks on 24 July.

Those first two Tests against the reigning World Cup champions take place in Johannesburg – at the 88,000-capacity Soccer City - and Cape Town before a return to Johannesburg’s Ellis Park for the third and final Test clash.

This will be the Lions’ 14th tour in South Africa, with four series wins to their name, including a memorable 2-1 success in 1997. The most recent Lions tour in South Africa saw the visitors come up short in an epic series in 2009, when Gatland was involved as an assistant coach.

The trip in 2021 will be Gatland’s third tour as head coach, having led the Lions to series success in Australia in 2013 and then a drawn series in New Zealand in 2017. South Africa will now pose a new and exciting challenge.

“I’m absolutely thrilled with how this schedule looks,” said Gatland. “Touring South Africa is always a huge challenge, not only from a rugby perspective but also in terms of the venues and the conditions facing the players.

“We’re very comfortable that three of the games, two of which are Test matches, will be played at altitude. Our schedule falls in a way to allow us to start at sea level before building up and acclimatising to the unique environment that playing at altitude presents.

“Ensuring the team are absolutely primed for the Test matches is a critical element of any Lions Tour, and I’m confident the quality of opposition we will face in the opening weeks will get us ready to take on the Springboks. The Bulls, Sharks, and Stormers are all tough sides and present different challenges, which is exactly what we want.”

rassie-erasmus Rassie Erasmus' Springboks are world champions. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

The Springboks, meanwhile, are excited about welcoming the tourists to their patch in around 19 months.

“There are players who have been to three Rugby World Cups and finished their careers with a winner’s medal yet never got to play against the Lions,” said South Africa Rugby director of rugby Rassie Erasmus.

“They only come around every 12 years for our players and only a few of them ever have the privilege of wearing the Springbok jersey in a Lions series.

“The Lions have not lost a series since they were last here a decade ago and they will present a next-level challenge in 18 months’ time.

“Warren Gatland is a massively experienced and astute coach with a phenomenal record with the Lions and the rugby experience for our players and public will rival that of a Rugby World Cup.”

2021 Lions tour fixtures

Saturday 3 July: Lions v Stormers – Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town

Wednesday 7 July: Lions v South Africa ‘Invitational’ – Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth

Saturday 10 July: Lions v Sharks – Jonsson Kings Park, Durban

Wednesday 13 July: Lions v South Africa ‘A’ Team – Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit

Saturday 17 July: Lions v Bulls – Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria

Saturday 24 July (first Test): Springboks v Lions – FNB Stadium, Johannesburg 

Saturday 31 July (second Test): Springboks v Lions – Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town

Saturday 7 August (third Test): Springboks v Lions – Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg

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Murray Kinsella

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