The British & Irish Lions could make history on an eight-game tour of South Africa in 2021, with Warren Gatland’s side set to play in front of the largest-ever crowd for a Lions Test in the professional era, after the itinerary was jointly announced on Wednesday.
The hotly-anticipated tour will span the length and breadth of South Africa, visiting some of the most impressive stadiums in world sport and culminating in three Test matches against the newly-crowned Rugby World Cup champions, the Springboks.
FNB Stadium in Johannesburg will host the first Test on Saturday 24 July and with a capacity of approximately 88,000 spectators, a sell-out crowd would be higher than the 84,188 who witnessed the series decider against the Wallabies in 2001.
The second Test follows a week later at the Cape Town Stadium – the first Lions Test in the Mother City since 1997 – before the British tourists return to Gauteng for the final Test on Saturday 7 August at Emirates Airline Park.
The combined capacity for the three Test venues is just below 205,000, which could make the three Tests on the 2021 tour the best-attended since professionalism, potentially surpassing the 192,972 people who attended the three Tests in Australia in 2013.
The eight-game schedule includes six weekend fixtures; three against Vodacom Super Rugby teams the Vodacom Bulls, Cell C Sharks and DHL Stormers, and two midweek fixtures against an invitational side in Port Elizabeth and South Africa ‘A’ in Nelspruit.
British & Irish Lions head coach, Warren Gatland, said he was delighted with an itinerary that he believes will allow his side to be perfectly prepared for the three Test matches which complete the Tour.
“I am absolutely thrilled with how this schedule looks,” said Gatland, whose Lions beat Australia in 2013 and drew the series with New Zealand in 2017.
“Touring South Africa is always a huge challenge, not only from a rugby perspective, but also in terms of the venues and the conditions facing the players.
Rassie Erasmus, SA Director of Rugby, said the keenly-awaited Tour was a once-in-a-lifetime playing opportunity for South African players.
“There are players who have been to three Rugby World Cups an finished their careers with a winner’s medal yet never got to play against the Lions,” said Erasmus.
“They only come around every 12 years for our players and only a few of them ever have the privilege of wearing the Springbok jersey in a Lions series.
BRITISH and IRISH LIONS ON SOUTH AFRICA 2021
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’ – Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit
Saturday 17 July: British & Irish Lions v Vodacom Bulls – Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Saturday 24 July (First Test): Springboks v British & Irish Lions – FNB Stadium, Johannesburg
Saturday 31 July (Second Test): Springboks v British & Irish Lions – Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town
Saturday 7 August (Third Test): Springboks v British & Irish Lions – Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg
-Story announced by https://www.lionsrugby.com/