Lions series worth the cash

The announcement that ticket prices for next year’s British & Irish Lions tour will be tiered is exciting news for South African fans, writes DYLAN JACK.

Addressing the media via a digital news conference on Tuesday, SA Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux confirmed that it had been decided to introduce four tiers of pricing for all Lions tour tickets,  unlike the once-price-fits-all approach of the previous Lions tour of South Africa in 2009.

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The eight-match tour, which stretches across six cities over five weeks and kicks off in Cape Town on 3 July 2021, has tickets available for public sale with attactively designed prices for South African residents.

Ticket prices for matches against the Stormers at Cape Town Stadium, the Sharks at Kings Park and the Vodacom Bulls at Loftus Versfeld range from R250 to R600 in price.

Tickets for mid-week matches against a SA Invitational team in Port Elizabeth and against SA A at Mbombela Stadium are even cheaper –ranging from only R100 to R350.

The cheapest Test-match ticket is R500 – less than the price of a ticket for a 2019 Springbok Test – and increases to R1,250 and R2,000 with the top-priced ticket R3,000.

‘The top-priced tickets are comparable with what was charged 12 years ago when the Lions were last here,’ Roux explained.

‘We have provided a range of price points for the public and, for instance, a family of four will be able to watch a match against one of the franchise teams for R1,000 in total, and for as little as R400 for a match in PE or Nelspruit.’

ROUX : Range of price points for the public

This will come as a welcome relief for South Africa rugby fans, who have been concerned that they could be priced out of seeing the tourists in action against their local teams.

SA Rugby also seems to have taken the underprivileged into consideration.

‘In terms of our bigger plan, we are obviously very conscious of accessibility to tickets. Especially to those communities who in the first place will not be able to afford the lower entry of those tickets and the accessibility to multimedia platforms.

‘In terms of that, we have our own platforms that we will reveal at a later stage in terms of rolling out tickets on a CSI and community base. That is part of a bigger corporate scheme in terms of making these games accessible to people who don’t have the means to attend them.’

Even with the tiered system, Test-match tickets are still going at a premium, with R500 for a Category D ticket and R3,000 for a Category A ticket – a price that the average South African won’t likely be able to afford, especially coming out of the country’s Covid-19 lockdown, which has significantly impacted the economy.

However, even if you cannot afford to watch the Springboks live, the opportunity to see the likes of the Vodacom Bulls, Sharks and Stormers up against the Lions is not something that should be passed up.

Looking back on the Lions tour to New Zealand in 2017, it was these games that proved to be one of the major highlights of the series, with the visitors almost always pushed to the brink by New Zealand’s domestic teams. In fact, the Blues and Highlanders were both able to grab victories against the Lions, while the Hurricanes came away with a draw. By no means are the results of these matches decided before they begin.

Equally, the opportunity to see potential future Springboks with the midweek South African invitational teams fixtures is worth the price of admission. The Emerging Springboks’ 13-13 draw with the Lions is still spoken about today and featured future Springboks in Duane Vermeulen, Zane Kirchner, Bjorn Basson, Jano Vermaak, Dewald Potgieter, Werner Kruger, Bandise Maku and Wian du Preez.

Over 30,000 fans are expected to make their way to South Africa from the UK next year. SA Rugby president Mark Alexander in January outlined that they are eager to see more South African fans in attendance and avoid a red wall of Lions fans in the majority, such as it was during the 2009 tour.

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There was an awkward moment of silence in Tuesday news conference prompted by Roux’s joke that 80% of the tickets had been reserved for Lions fans, before he set the record straight.

‘We have deliberately steered away from the scenario we had in 2009 and we have kept the bulk of tickets for the South African fanbase, corporate base and travel base on a pre-agreed number with the British & Irish Lions.

‘We can assure you that hopefully the Sea of Green will be far in excess of the Sea of Red based on the allocation of tickets that we have done. It is very much in favour of the local market.’

Given that SA Rugby is unlikely to bid for the hosting rights of either the 2027 or 2031 World Cups, it makes the upcoming Lions tour even more appealing as possibly the biggest sporting event the country has hosted since the 2010 Fifa World Cup.

Photo: Gallo Images

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Dylan Jack