SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux says plans for the 2021 British & Irish Lions tour to South Africa remain in high gear, with the only possibility a delayed start that fits in with a global calendar. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
Although the Covid-19 pandemic has had a wide-ranging impact on the rugby industry and competitions around the world, Roux has particularly highlighted the importance of the 2021 Lions tour.
At a time when the SA rugby industry has needed to endure considerable financial setbacks and enforce a host of cost-cutting measures, the visit from the Lions has only increased in its commercial importance.
‘We can’t wait for the opportunity of the Lions tour, which comes around every 12 years, and commercially – as a joint venture goes – we have thrown away the textbook. There will be a sharing of revenue, logos, intellectual property and it will hold great commercial value,’ Roux said.
‘In a post-Covid-19 world, the benefits of the Lions tour will be extremely valuable and enable us to move forward successfully despite the fact we are not actually in such a bad spot [after reporting a profit of R8.5 million for 2019].’
Roux also confirmed that a move to host the tour later in the year was being considered to dovetail with all other Test scheduling conversations taking place at a World Rugby level.
As it stands, the Lions tour is set to start in July, but could be shifted back to September next year.
‘The development of the pandemic and its varying impact around the world has made for a fluid situation and we have had to be responsive in our planning,’ said Roux. ‘That means we have looked at a number of contingencies around scheduling.
‘We have those scenarios in place, but the main question now is when it will be safe for international travel and for mass gatherings. It would be a disappointment if a Lions series had to be played behind closed doors, but that is not a scenario for which we are currently planning.’
And despite some reports earlier this year that Roux could move to take up a job with World Rugby, he reiterated his commitment to SA Rugby.
‘The greatest tour is coming next year, and I can’t wait to be part of that environment. There’s really not much I’d exchange for a British & Irish Lions tour to South Africa. I’m here and committed to SA Rugby. Nothing should stop that tour next year.’