Lions head coach Warren Gatland. Dan Sheridan/INPHO
Tour On

Confirmed: The Lions announce intention to tour South Africa as planned

SA Rugby and the Lions have confirmed their intention to plough on with the series.

THE BRITISH AND Irish Lions have confirmed their intention to tour South Africa this summer as originally planned.

There had been discussions about moving the Test series against the Springboks in July and August to the UK or even Australia in recent months, but the Lions have now officially confirmed that they will push ahead with their tour of South Africa.

The Lions are due to play the Stormers on 3 July in Cape Town, with four further warm-up games before a three-Test series against the Springboks.

It is likely that games will be played behind closed doors in South Africa, although there remains some hope that improvements in the Covid-19 situation could allow limited numbers of fans to attend.

South Africa Rugby has also confirmed its intention to host the tour this summer, although it did stress that it cannot ignore the “serious financial implications” if fans are unable to attend games.

“After reviewing information relating to the various contingency scenarios being considered, I can confirm that the Board’s intended position is for the tour to go ahead as scheduled in South Africa in 2021,” said Jason Leonard, chairman of the British and Irish Lions.

“We acknowledge that there is a significant amount of work still to be undertaken to deliver a robust Covid-19 countermeasure plan to ensure a successful, safe and uninterrupted tour. SA Rugby will have our full support to help implement this plan.”

Mark Alexander, president of SA Rugby, will inform the Executive Council of the South African Rugby Union of its alignment with the Lions’ intention to tour this summer.

“We appreciate the Lions’ faith and share their desire to see a safe and successful tour,” said Alexander.

“We have been in regular contact with our government to make that a reality against the backdrop of the pandemic and its predicted progression over the coming months.

“There are serious financial implications for SA Rugby should the event take place without any supporters in attendance, and we cannot ignore that in our considerations. But we are determined that the eventual outcome will deliver the best occasion and experience for players, supporters, and our commercial partners.”

An official Lions statement said that “it is not yet known whether international or cross-border travel for supporters will be possible into the country in July.

“Supporters who have purchased ticket-inclusive packages through Lions Rugby Travel will be notified directly via email with information on the options available.

“At this time, it also remains unclear whether spectators will be permitted into stadia in July and August. SA Rugby and the Lions continue to work with relevant South African Government departments to ascertain the latest guidance on Covid-19 countermeasure planning for major sporting events and will communicate any updates as soon as it is possible to do so.

“In the event that spectators are not permitted to gain access to the Test matches, Lions supporters who had successfully purchased Test match tickets via the Lions ticket ballot will be refunded.”

The Lions’ warm-up Test against Japan in Murrayfield on Saturday 26 June is also set to proceed as planned.

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