CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - South African Rugby has no immediate plans to change the dates of the British & Irish Lions tour in 2021 but says it is conducting scenario planning around a possible switch due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“While we continue to look forward to an incredible test series and tour against the British & Irish Lions in 2021, and there are no planned changes, it would be remiss of us not to explore various scenarios for a possible date change caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” SA Rugby said in a statement on Monday.
A weekend report in The Mirror suggested that the tour to meet the world champion Springboks could be postponed or cancelled to free up space on the international calendar for England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales to host fixtures next July and boost revenue hit hard by the global pandemic.
It was reported that while each home union will receive in the region of 2 million pounds ($2.48 million) for the use of their players on the Lions tour, they can make at least double that by hosting a single test at a sold out home stadium.
The Lions tour has a planned July 3 start, with the three tests on consecutive weekends from July 24 onwards.
The dates also clash with the revised schedule for the Tokyo Olympics, although both the Lions and SA Rugby have previously said they will not move the tour because of this.
World Rugby will reportedly review the use of the July international window in future years and could move Lions tours, which happen every four years in either New Zealand, Australia or South Africa, to later in the season.
There are discussions around an October-November window that would see northern hemisphere sides travel south for the first month and then host fixtures in the second month as part of a move to standardise a global calendar.
Reporting by Nick Said; Editing by Ken Ferris