Lions Board, SA Rugby confirm South Africa as preferred hosts of Test series
CAPE TOWN – Rugby fans were on Tuesday given the clearest indication that the Test series between the world champion Springboks and British and Irish Lions would go ahead as planned.
Both SA Rugby and the British and Irish Lions confirmed that they would prefer to have the upcoming Lions Series here in South Africa, in the scheduled playing window.
The Covid-19 pandemic has caused a lot of havoc on the global sporting calendar over the last year, which led to doubts as to whether South Africa would be able to host the series.
Having turned down the offer from Rugby Australia to play the series Down Under, and the proposal to play it in the United Kingdom, the Lions Board have told SA Rugby their preference is playing the series in South Africa.
“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 & 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.”
The Lions Board’s decision was appreciated by SA Rugby president Mark Alexander, who last week said they were speaking to the government in order to allow 50% stadium attendance for the duration of the series.
“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.”
SA Rugby added that the original tour schedule was subject to review, and any changes will be communicated as soon as possible. Fans who purchased tickets through the ballot were entitled to a full refund.