Organisers have confirmed on Wednesday that The British & Irish Lions’ 2021 tour of South Africa will go ahead as scheduled.
The news comes after fears that the tour could be postponed due to the global coronavirus pandemic.
The eight-game tour kicks off on Saturday, 3 July 2021 when the Lions play the Stormers at Cape Town Stadium.
Three weeks later, on Saturday, 24 July, the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg will host the first Test – a venue which last hosted the Springboks in 2013.
The second Test follows on Saturday, 31 July at Cape Town Stadium – the first Lions Test in the Mother City since 1997 – before the tourists return to Gauteng for the final Test on Saturday, 7 August at Ellis Park.
“The whole of South Africa is looking forward to welcoming the Lions and we continue progressing our plans to provide our local supporters, as well as fans travelling from abroad, with a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux said via a press statement.
Roux continued: “We’ve seen with the three most recent tours, in 2009 to South Africa, 2013 to Australia and 2017 to New Zealand, that the Lions bring with them a big and passionate group of supporters.
“We have to ensure the army of red does not dwarf our sea of green and gold, while at the same time showing our guests the best South African hospitality.
“This will be the British & Irish Lions’ third tour since the game turned professional, with them winning in 1997 and us taking the spoils in 2009. On every occasion the Springboks took the field as reigning Rugby World Cup champions and the 2021 tour is already shaping up to be one for the ages.”
Ben Calveley, British & Irish Lions managing director, added: “The Covid-19 pandemic has caused a lot of disruption to the sporting calendar, but after extensive discussions we are now able to confirm that the tour dates are as previously announced.
“An enormous amount of planning, especially from a logistical perspective, goes into putting on a Lions series, so it was crucial that a decision was agreed upon in good time.
“I am particularly pleased that we are able to provide some clarity for all those Lions supporters eager to travel to South Africa next summer.”
Lions coach Warren Gatland also commented: “Lions tours are always unique, but to take on the world champions in their backyard will be something very special.
“Having toured there in 2009 I know the scale of the task ahead of us – playing in South Africa presents a number of unique challenges such as playing at altitude, while the Boks will always be physical, aggressive and highly motivated.
“History tells you it’s a tough place to tour, but I am confident that we can go there and win.”
The British & Irish Lions have toured South Africa on 13 previous occasions, with the first Tour taking place in 1891. In that time, the Lions have won four Test series, lost eight with one drawn. Their overall record against the Springboks is played 46, won 17, lost 23 and drawn six.
Full 2021 tour schedule:
– Saturday 3 July: British & Irish Lions v Stormers – Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town
– Wednesday 7 July: British & Irish Lions v South Africa ‘Invitational’ – Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth
– Saturday 10 July: British & Irish Lions v Sharks – Kings Park, Durban
– Wednesday 14 July: British & Irish Lions v South Africa “A” Team – Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit
– Saturday 17 July: British & Irish Lions v Bulls – Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
– Saturday 24 July (first Test): Springboks v British & Irish Lions – FNB Stadium, Johannesburg
– Saturday 31 July (second Test): Springboks v British & Irish Lions – Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town
– Saturday 7 August (third Test): Springboks v British & Irish Lions – Ellis Park, Johannesburg