CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - The British and Irish Lions tour to world champions South Africa will stick to its July/August 2021 schedule, organisers confirmed in Wednesday, ensuring it will overlap with the Tokyo Olympic Games.
South African Rugby had previously spoken about the possibility of moving the tour to later in the year if a new global rugby calendar was agreed.
“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 chief executive Jourie Roux said in a statement.
“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.”
South Africa is battling to contain the COVID-19 pandemic with less than 300,000 cases as of Tuesday and yet to reach its peak.
That will continue to create uncertainty in the immediate future, though Ben Calveley, British & Irish Lions managing director, is pleased to have dates to offer travelling supporters.
“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,” he 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.”
The tour will open with a meeting between the Lions and Super Rugby side The Stormers in Cape Town on July 3, and ends with three tests on consecutive Saturday’s between July 24 and Aug. 7.
The first and the third will be in Johannesburg at Soccer City and Ellis Park, either side of a meeting at the Cape Town Stadium.
The Olympic Games in Tokyo run from July 23 to Aug. 8, but SA Rugby have previously played down the significance of the clash.
Reporting By Nick Said; editing by John Stonestreet and Christian Radnedge