South Africa planning for Lions tour to be played without fans
Revised schedule makes some adjustments to reduce travel and create stable bases
The FNB Stadium in Johannesburg where the final two Lions Tests will take place. Photo: Duif du Toit / Gallo Images/Getty Images
As expected, the revised schedule for the British & Irish Lions tour of South Africa this summer will see all eight games restricted to Gauteng and Cape Town, with organisers currently planning for all matches to be played without supports in attendance.
As reported in The Irish Times, the tour will begin and end in Johannesburg, with the middle section taking place in Cape Town. The eight matches will be restricted to just four venues so as to significantly reduce travel and as a result potential disruption to the schedule.
The South African Rugby Union is resigned to having the eight matches being played behind closed doors but remain hopeful that the government will lift restrictions to at least some degree on supporters being in attendance by the time the tour starts on Saturday July 3rd when the Emirates Lions, replacing a South Africa invitational team, host the tourists at Ellis Park in Johannesburg.
Warren Gatland’s side will then play the Sharks in the same stadium four days later before completing the first Gauteng leg of the tour against the Bulls in Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday July 10th.
The Lions will then move to Cape Town for three matches in the second leg of the tour, against South Africa ‘A’, the Stormers and the first test against the Springboks on Saturday, July 24th.
The second and third Tests will both take place at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg on July 31st and August 7th.
“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,” said Jurie Roux, SA Rugby chief executive. “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.”
Two of the games will kick-off at 7pm Irish time and the other six at 5pm Irish time, including all three Tests. All be shown live on Sky Sports, with Channel 4 securing highlights packages for all three tests as well as exclusive coverage of the Lions’ warm-up game against Japan at Murrayfield on June 26th.
Revised Lions schedule
Saturday, July 3rd
Emirates Lions v British & Irish Lions, Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg, 6pm local, 5pm Irish time
Wednesday, July 7th
Sharks v British & Irish Lions, Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg, 8pm/7pm
Saturday, July 10th
Bulls v British & Irish Lions, Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria, 6pm/5pm
Wednesday, July 14th
South Africa ‘A’ v British & Irish Lions, Cape Town Stadium, 8pm/7pm
Saturday, July 17th
Stormers v British & Irish Lions, Cape Town Stadium, 6pm/5pm
Saturday, July 24th
1st Test: South Africa v British & Irish Lions, Cape Town Stadium, 6pm/5pm
Saturday, July 31st
2nd Test: South Africa v British & Irish Lions, FNB Stadium, Johannesburg, 6pm/5pm
Saturday, August 7th
3rd Test: South Africa v British & Irish Lions, FNB Stadium, Johannesburg, 6pm/5pm