Lions’ 2021 tour of SA in jeopardy – report

The British & Irish Lions’ tour to South Africa could be in jeopardy, a report out of Britain indicates.

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According to English publication, The Mirror, the 2021 tour could be postponed or even cancelled as the home unions – England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales – fight for financial survival amid the coronavirus pandemic that has halted the game.

The home unions are desperate to play their November autumn Tests as well as matches held over from this year’s Six Nations.

However, all of those fixtures may have to be pushed back further, possibly into 2021.

The Lions’ eight-match tour of South Africa next July and August is expected to earn £30 million. However, the home unions will only get about £2 million each, compared to the £4 million to £8 million a home Test can bring in.

In a crowded 2021 calendar, it would mean the more lucrative home Tests elbowing aside the Lions tour, which would be postponed for a year, or even scrapped altogether.

The Lions last toured South Africa in 2009, when the Springboks won the series 2-1.

The Lions are slated to play eight matches in South Africa next year, including three Tests. The first Test is scheduled for 24 July at FNB Stadium in Johannesburg, the second for 31 July at Cape Town Stadium and the third on 7 August at Ellis Park in Johannesburg.

Prior to the Test series, there are matches scheduled against the Stormers (Cape Town, 3 July), SA ‘Invitational’ XV (Port Elizabeth, 7 July), Sharks (Durban, 10 July), South Africa ‘A’ (Nelspruit, 14 July) and Bulls (Pretoria, 17 July).

Meanwhile, the future calendars of Lions tours could also see a changed with a report in The Times indicating on Sunday that it could be moved to a September-October time slot.

The Lions have traditionally toured leading southern-hemisphere countries in June and July, with tours to South Africa, Australia and New Zealand taking place every four years in the southern hemisphere winter. This would be followed almost immediately in November by the southern-hemisphere nations flying north for another round of international matches.

These are some of the changes being considered by World Rugby after Bill Beaumont’s re-election as chairperson over the weekend.

Beaumont, 68, who campaigned on the promise of opening up the sport, claimed 28 of the 51 votes to overcome the 45-year-old Argentine Agustin Pichot who planned to modernise the body and used the hashtag #GlobalGame on social media.

– Compiled by Sport24 staff

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