Three-test Lions series will go ahead as scheduled in 2021

By Simon Lewis

The British & Irish Lions 2021 tour to South Africa will go ahead as scheduled, with the Lions and SA Rugby confirming the three-Test series with the reigning world champions was on track despite the current Covid-19 pandemic.

The British & Irish Lions and SA Rugby made the announcement this morning while it was also revealed that Sky Sports had won the television rights for the three Tests and five warm-up matches on the tour.

Doubts of the ongoing public health emergency and difficulties formulating a new global rugby calendar had placed the tour in some doubt as to when it would take place but Wednesday’s announcement confirmed that Warren Gatland would the Lions into his third Test series as head coach on the dates originally scheduled in July and August 2021.

Gatland, 56, was forwards coach for the last visit to South Africa in 2009, an epic series that the Springboks, also world champions at the time, edged 2-1 in three tightly-contested matches.

“Lions tours are always unique, but to take on the World Champions in their backyard will be something very special,” Gatland said.

“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 eight-game tour kicks off on Saturday, July 3, 2021, when the Lions play Super Rugby outfit DHL Stormers in Cape Town, the first of five games in three weeks building up to the opening Test against the Boks in Johannesburg on July 24 at the FNB Stadium, which staged the 2010 FIFA World Cup Final.

The second Test follows on Saturday, July 31 at the Cape Town Stadium before the tourists return to Johannesburg for the final Test on Saturday, August 7 at Emirates Airline Park, formerly Ellis Park, the venue of the 1995 Rugby World Cup final.

“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,” British & Irish Lions managing director Ben Calveley said.

“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.”

SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux added: “We’re delighted to confirm the Tour dates remain the same. The whole of South Africa is looking forward to welcoming the Lions and we continue progressing our plans to provide travelling supporters with a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

The British & Irish Lions will be touring South Africa for the 14th time, having first visited in 1891. They have won four Test series, lost eight with one drawn. There have been 46 Tests with Springboks in total with the Lions winning 17, losing 23, and drawing six.

Full Tour Schedule

Saturday July 3: British & Irish Lions v DHL Stormers – Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town

Wednesday July 7: British & Irish Lions v South Africa ‘Invitational’ – Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth

Saturday July 10: British & Irish Lions v Cell C Sharks – Jonsson Kings Park, Durban

Wednesday July 14: British & Irish Lions v South Africa ‘A’ Team – Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit

Saturday July 17: British & Irish Lions v Vodacom Bulls – Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria

Saturday July 24 (1st Test): Springboks v British & Irish Lions – FNB Stadium, Johannesburg

Saturday July 31 (2nd Test): Springboks v British & Irish Lions – Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town

Saturday August 7 (3rd Test): Springboks v British & Irish Lions – Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg