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British & Irish Lions tour cities rearranged, no fans at games

Fans who live in South Africa will be able to attend games if restrictions change. Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images

The 2021 British & Irish Lions schedule has been revised to keep matches either in Johannesburg or Cape Town, with organisers admitting the new-look fixture list has been put together on the basis matches "will take place behind closed doors."

The eight-match schedule sees the tour start in Johannesburg and Pretoria, before switching to Cape Town, and then returning to Johannesburg. But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and South Africa bracing for a "third wave" of infections, the organisers have confirmed this schedule has been put together on the basis no supporters will be permitted inside the stadiums.

"We are hopeful that restrictions on attendance at sports events will be relaxed but, for the moment, we are planning for an event behind closed doors," SARU CEO Jurie Roux said.

"If that requirement changes, then we'll assess the options available and make the necessary decisions based on the restrictions in place."

The Lions have confirmed supporters will be offered full refunds, while residents of South Africa will have the right to purchase tickets if restrictions on spectators attending these events are lifted. With the tour operating in a secure bio-bubble, South Africa's Lions have replaced the South Africa Invitational team.

That match between the British & Irish Lions and SA Lions kick-starts the tour on July 3 in Johannesburg, with the tourists then facing the Sharks on July 7.

The Lions then play the Bulls in Pretoria before travelling to Cape Town for matches against South Africa 'A' and the Stormers. The first Test is on July 24 in Cape Town, with the second and third in Johannesburg.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has caused considerable disruption to the global sporting calendar, but after discussions with our partners at SA Rugby, we are very pleased to be able to give confirmation of the revised tour schedule," British & Irish Lions managing director Ben Calveley said.

"While things will undoubtedly look different to a typical Lions Tour, together with SA Rugby we are determined to deliver an uninterrupted Series for the players who will take the field, as well as the many millions of people watching at home.

"We would like to thank all Lions supporters for their patience and understanding as we continue to navigate our way through the impact of the pandemic, and also extend our enormous gratitude to our commercial partners for their incredible ongoing support."

Roux added: "Throughout we have had a single-minded goal to ensure the series went ahead. The British & Irish Lions only visit our shores once every 12 years and to deny our players and our supporters the opportunity of sharing in the experience of what is invariably an event that passes into folklore would have been a devastating blow. We're now ready to deliver the series."