By next month, the British & Irish Lions will determine if their South Africa tour, which starts in July, will proceed after the emergence of new strains of coronavirus there and in Britain, contributing to the confusion as to whether fans will be able to watch the games.
The British government is currently warning against traveling to South Africa, which became the first country on the continent to cross one million Covid 19 cases last weekend and has banned alcohol sales and instituted a national curfew.
A tour without fans – at least 30,000 visiting fans are planned – would be neither desirable nor commercially viable, the four domestic federations and the hosts believe. In South Africa, there is no timeline yet for a vaccination program.
“We are planning based on the latest information available to us,” Lions general manager Ben Calveley said. We are mindful of the need to make a timely decision on the best course of action because of the confusion that the pandemic continues to create both in South Africa and in the UK and Ireland.
Not least so that fans who have booked or are thinking about making a trip to South Africa can be given clarification. The Lions’ board has met repeatedly and is in continuous contact to address all potential scenarios.
To review all relevant information and data, it will meet during January and into February as required.
The Lions will play eight games in South Africa, beginning on July 3 with the Stormers in Cape Town and finishing on Aug. 7 with the third Test against the World Champions in Johannesburg. After beating England in the World Cup final 14 months ago, the Springboks have not played.
“We will give an update in due course,” Calveley said. “We’re continuing to talk to various government agencies in the U.K., Ireland and South Africa to get as much information as we can about this fast-moving, complex situation.”
Andy Goode, former full-back of England, said that if the Lions tour were postponed, the Six Nations could be rescheduled to fill the void and would be welcomed back into stadiums at a time when fans in the UK.
It will be troublesome to postpone the Lions tour, which is a financial requirement for the South African Union, until 2022, since England will play in Australia while Ireland is in New Zealand and Wales is due 15 months before the World Cup in France in South Africa.