SA Rugby and the British & Irish Lions confirmed a revised Castle Lager Lions Series fixture list and venues on Friday.
All eight matches of the Tour will be played in Gauteng and Cape Town to minimise the risks of disruption that could be caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The schedule accommodates stable team bases and training venues and significantly reduces travel.
The Castle Lager Lions Series will now kick off in Gauteng (rather than Cape Town) with three matches against provincial opposition before moving to Cape Town for two more warm-up matches before the first Test at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday 24 July.
The Series then returns to Johannesburg for the second and third Tests at the FNB Stadium.
There is one team change in the revised schedule with the Emirates Lions replacing the SA Invitational team. The adjustment was made to reduce the risks associated with drawing a squad from around the country.
SA Rugby is organising all games in the schedule to comply with the regulations on attendance as will apply at the time of play.
The full Castle Lager Lions Series 2021 is:
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)
All ticket holders for the original schedule will receive a full refund. 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.
“We’re delighted to be able to finally confirm the revised schedule after months of scenario planning and shifting circumstances,” said Jurie Roux, CEO of SA Rugby.
“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.”
Ben Calveley, The British & Irish Lions Managing Director, 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 said that the priority throughout had been to ensure the Castle Lager Lions 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 & 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.”
Ticketholders would be contacted directly to advise details of the refund process.
Issued by SA Rugby Communications