Head coach Warren Gatland is ‘absolutely thrilled’ with the itinerary for the British & Irish Lions’ eight-game tour of South Africa in 2021.
The Lions’ eight-game schedule was announced on Wednesday and the highly anticipated tour will span the length and breadth of South Africa.
The elite team will play against the Vodacom Bulls at Loftus, Sharks at Kings Park and Stormers at Cape Town Stadium, as well as have two midweek fixtures against an invitational side from Port Elizabeth and South Africa ‘A’ in Nelspruit before the tour culminates with three Test matches against the world champion Springboks.
The combined capacity for the three Test venues is just below 205,000, which could make the Tests of the 2021 tour the best attended in the professional era, potentially surpassing the 192,972 people who attended the three Tests in Australia in 2013.
‘I am absolutely thrilled with how this schedule looks,’ said Gatland, who led the Lions to a series win over the Wallabies in 2013 and a series stalemate with the All Blacks 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.
‘We are very comfortable that three of the games, two of which are Test matches, will be played at altitude. Our schedule falls in a way to allow us to start at sea level before building up and acclimatising to the unique environment that playing at altitude presents.’
‘Ensuring the team are absolutely primed for the Test matches is a critical element of any Lions Tour, and I am confident the quality of opposition we will face in the opening weeks will get us ready to take on the Springboks. The Bulls, Sharks and Stormers are all tough sides and present different challenges, which is exactly what we want.’
‘Moreover, the venues we have agreed – some of which will be new to the Lions – open up the matches to a vast audience and will undoubtedly provide an unforgettable experience for the players and travelling supporters alike.
‘We are very much looking forward to touring this wonderful country.’
Full 2021 tour schedule
Saturday, 3 July: British & Irish Lions vs Stormers – Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town
Wednesday, 7 July: British & Irish Lions v SA ‘Invitational’ – Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth
Saturday 10 July: British & Irish Lions vs Sharks – Kings Park, Durban
Wednesday 14 July: British & Irish Lions v South Africa ‘A’ – Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit
Saturday, 17 July: British & Irish Lions vs Vodacom Bulls – Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Saturday, 24 July (1st Test): Springboks vs British & Irish Lions – FNB Stadium, Johannesburg
Saturday, 31 July (2nd Test): Springboks vs British & Irish Lions – Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town
Saturday, 7 August (3rd Test): Springboks vs British & Irish Lions – Ellis Park, Johannesburg.
Photo: British & Irish Lions/Archive