Lions schedule in SA changed, almost certainly no fans

CAPE TOWN, South Africa — The British and Irish Lions’ match schedule for their rugby tour of South Africa has been changed to mitigate the risks posed by the coronavirus pandemic, while there will almost certainly be no fans at any of the games, the two teams said Friday.

The announcement gave final confirmation that the tour will go ahead in July and August with the Lions playing eight games, including three tests against the reigning world champion Springboks.

But seven of the eight games will now be in either Johannesburg or Cape Town, with the other in the capital, Pretoria. That means the Lions will not travel to Durban, Port Elizabeth or Nelspruit, as originally planned for the tour.

SA Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux said they were hopeful that the South African government might relax some restrictions on fans being allowed back into sports stadiums by July “but, for the moment, we are planning for an event behind closed doors.”

The Lions regularly take tens of thousands of their supporters with them on their once-every-four-years tours to South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. Their fans’ presence is a key part of the spirit of the tour, but the pandemic has likely meant that can’t happen this time.

“While things will undoubtedly look different to a typical Lions tour, together with SA Rugby we are determined to deliver an uninterrupted series for the players who will take the field, as well as the many millions of people watching at home,” British and Irish Lions managing director Ben Calveley said. “We would like to thank all Lions supporters for their patience and understanding as we continue to navigate our way through the impact of the pandemic.”

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