Monday, December 6News That Matters

British Lions will play South Africa tour behind closed doors after revised schedule is confirmed

The Lions are set to play all their matches on the tour of South Africa behind closed doors – including the three Tests against the Springboks – after a revised schedule was confirmed. 

As previously reported by Mail Online Sport, it has been known for several weeks that travelling British and Irish fans would not be able attend any fixtures, but it was still hoped that some local spectators would be permitted, in controlled numbers. 

However, after the case was brought before the host country’s National Coronavirus Command Council last weekend, it has been confirmed that the South African union (SA Rugby) are proceeding on the basis of empty stadia. 

Warren Gatland's British & Irish Lions will be playing in empty stadiums in South Africa

Warren Gatland's British & Irish Lions will be playing in empty stadiums in South Africa

Warren Gatland’s British & Irish Lions will be playing in empty stadiums in South Africa  

This is a shattering setback for SA Rugby – and the wider economy in the host nation – as they will miss out on the once-in-a-generation financial windfall generated by a full-capacity Lions tour. 

There had been projections that the 2021 event would attract around 35,000 supporters from these islands. Instead, the fixtures will now proceed in hollow COVID-secure bubbles. 

There will be eight matches, including the Tests, as was originally planned, but the itinerary has been changed to reflect the danger of disruption from the pandemic. All the games will take place in the province of Gauteng and in Cape Town. 

Alun Wyn Jones and Co will compete and live in bio-secure bubbles in South Africa

Alun Wyn Jones and Co will compete and live in bio-secure bubbles in South Africa

Alun Wyn Jones and Co will compete and live in bio-secure bubbles in South Africa 

Instead of taking on an SA Invitational side, the tourists will now take on the Johannesburg-based Lions, in their opener on July 3. 

Despite fears that no crowds could lead to the whole tour being cancelled – due to the prospect of financial losses – officials are pressing ahead for now. 

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.’ 

TOUR SCHEDULE:  

Saturday 3 July: Emirates Lions v The British & Irish Lions (Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg) KO 18h00 (SAT) / 17h00 (BST)

Wednesday 7 July: Cell C Sharks v The British & Irish Lions (Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg) KO 20h00 (SAT) / 19h00 (BST)

Saturday 10 July: Vodacom Bulls v The British & Irish Lions (Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria) KO 18h00 (SAT) / 17h00 (BST)

Wednesday 14 July: South Africa ‘A’ v The British & Irish Lions (Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town) KO 20h00 (SAT) / 19h00 (BST)

Saturday 17 July: DHL Stormers v The British & Irish Lions (Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town) KO 18h00 (SAT) / 17h00 (BST)

Saturday 24 July: Springboks v The British & Irish Lions (1st Test, Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town) KO 18h00 (SAT) / 17h00 (BST)

Saturday 31 July: Springboks v The British & Irish Lions (2nd Test, FNB Stadium, Johannesburg) KO 18h00 (SAT) / 17h00 (BST)

Saturday 7 Aug: Springboks v The British & Irish Lions (3rd Test, FNB Stadium, Johannesburg) KO 18h00 (SAT) / 17h00 (BST)

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