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The British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa will take place as scheduled in July and August 2021.
Earlier during lockdown there were discussions about moving the tour to the autumn of 2021, not only because of coronavirus but to fit a new ‘global-season’ proposal.
But with those talks falling flat so far, and renewed confidence that the tour can take place next summer, the Lions and South Africans have reaffirmed the dates for the trip.
The British and Irish Lions Tour to South Africa has been confirmed for July and August 2021
The side will face World Champions South Africa next summer immediately after seasons ends
It means that the Lions will still open their tour against the Stormers in Cape Town on July 3, 2021, will play four more warm-up matches and then three Tests against the world champions.
The final Test, in Johannesburg, will take place on August 7, 2021 – which means prospective English tourists face an entire year of week-to-week rugby action, with the Premiership season resuming next month and a new campaign beginning in November after autumn Tests.
It also means the Lions will once again lack preparation time. The Premiership has refused to change its summer final date of June 26 next year, so some English Lions will – like for the last tour to New Zealand – fly to South Africa barely hours after the domestic season has ended.
Lions boss Warren Gatland urged the Premiership to be more accommodating, but they have not listened to his protestations.
Boss Warren Gatland (right) will again have to manage a quick turnaround for his players
LIONS TOUR TO SOUTH AFRICA DATES
Saturday 3 July: British & Irish Lions v DHL Stormers – Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town
Wednesday 7 July: British & Irish Lions v South Africa ‘Invitational’ – Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth
Saturday 10 July: British & Irish Lions v Cell C Sharks – Jonsson Kings Park, Durban
Wednesday 14 July: British & Irish Lions v South Africa ‘A’ Team – Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit
Saturday 17 July: British & Irish Lions v Vodacom Bulls – Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Saturday 24 July (1st Test): Springboks v British & Irish Lions – FNB Stadium, Johannesburg
Saturday 31 July (2nd Test): Springboks v British & Irish Lions – Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town
Saturday 7 August (3rd Test): Springboks v British & Irish Lions – Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg
The PRO14 league – comprising Irish, Scottish and Welsh hopefuls – is expected to shift to allow tourists to train before they leave these shores.
The Lions are also still hopeful of arranging a pre-tour match on home turf, possibly at Murrayfield with Japan as a preferred opponent, to help with funds and preparation.
‘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,’ said Ben Calveley, British & Irish Lions Managing Director.
‘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.’
Jurie Roux, CEO of SA Rugby, 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.’
Sky Sports have revealed that – as expected – they will show the full tour exclusively live on their channels.
The broadcaster will cover all three Tests and the five warm-ups on its seventh successive Lions tour, since the 1997 trip to South Africa.
Head coach Gatland said: ‘Lions Tours are always unique, but to take on the world champions in their backyard will be something very special.
‘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.
The Lions last toured South Africa in 2009 when they were defeated by the world champions
‘History tells you it’s a tough place to tour, but I am confident that we can go there and win.
‘Sky Sports always do an excellent job covering the Tour, so I am delighted they are on board again.’