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SPRINGBOKS TO PLAY BRITISH & IRISH LIONS SERIES IN THE UK?

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The 2021 British and Irish Lions series against the Springboks could be held in the UK and Ireland if Covid-19 prevents fans from travelling.

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According to the BBC, that is one of the contingency plans discussed by the Lions board in the event the tour has to be abandoned.

Instead, matches would be played in Edinburgh, London, Cardiff, and Dublin.

The SA Rugby union has previously made it clear that a tour without visiting fans would not be commercially viable for them.

The Lions board is also thought to be unenthusiastic about the idea.

However, it is hoped that a vaccine would allow for fans to attend matches in the UK by mid-year.

In a statement over the weekend, the Lions board announced that they had been having “repeated meetings to discuss all scenarios available and is in constant dialogue”.

A warm-up contest with Japan is already scheduled for Murrayfield in Edinburgh on 26 June.

After that, the original plan is for the Lions to travel to South Africa to play five provincial games before the three-Test series against the world champion Springboks.

The revised plan would likely see the Tests held at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium and Wembley and Twickenham in London.

Government restrictions currently forbid fans from attending, but even if restrictions are lifted, the Lions board is worried that such a large movement of people could put any Covid-19 recovery in jeopardy.

It had been mooted that the tour might be delayed until 2022, but all four home nations have Tests scheduled for that window and are said to not be keen on that switch.

Lions managing director Ben Calveley said: “It will meet throughout January and into February, if required, to review all relevant information and data.

“After further consultation with SA Rugby, we will update on the outcome of these meetings in due course.”

Should the 2021 tour go ahead, it will be the 14th to South Africa since their maiden voyage back in 1891.

Of the previous 13 tours, the Springboks have won eight, the British & Irish Lions have triumphed in four and there has been one series stalemate (in 1955).

Overall, 46 Tests have been played, with the Springboks coming out on top in 23, the British & Irish Lions in 17, while six matches have ended in draws.

The Springboks have scored 600 points in total, while conceding 516 for an average final score of 13-11 in South Africa’s favour.

BIGGEST MARGIN OF VICTORY

The Springboks’ biggest ever margin of victory (20 points) came in the fourth and final Test of the 1962 tour at the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein when they won 34-14.

That 1962 tour saw the British & Irish Lions play 25 matches, although they did start in Rhodesia and end in current day Kenya.

The British & Irish Lions’ biggest margin of victory (19 points) has occurred on two occasions, coincidently by the same final score: 28-9.

The first occasion was on their dominant 1974 tour when they won 21 of their 22 matches, only being held to a controversial draw in the final Test in Johannesburg.

That British & Irish Lions’ squad – known at the ‘Invincibles’ – boasted household names like JPR Williams, Phil Bennett, Ian McGeechan, Gareth Edwards, Fran Cotton, Fergus Slattery, Mervyn Davies and was skipped by the great Willie John McBride.

They won the second Test 28-9 in Pretoria.

That margin was matched, somewhat ominously, in the most recent Test played between the two teams at Ellis Park in 2009.

The Springboks had already clinched the series 2-0 at that stage after 5 and 3-point margins of victory in Durban and Pretoria.

BRITISH & IRISH LIONS ITINERARY FOR SA TOUR:

Saturday 3 July: British & Irish Lions v Stormers – Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town

Wednesday 7 July: British & Irish Lions v South Africa’ Invitational’ – Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth

Saturday 10 July: British & Irish Lions v Sharks – Kings Park, Durban

Wednesday 14 July: British & Irish Lions v South Africa ‘A’ – Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit

Saturday 17 July: British & Irish Lions v Bulls – Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria

Saturday 24 July (1st Test): Springboks v British & Irish Lions – FNB Stadium, Johannesburg

Saturday 31 July (2nd Test): Springboks v British & Irish Lions – Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town

Saturday 7 August (3rd Test): Springboks v British & Irish Lions – Ellis Park, Johannesburg

Written by Garrin Lambley

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