SA Rugby desperate to host the British and Irish Lions in South Africa next year

09 June 2020 - 14:23 By Liam Del Carme
SA Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux speaks to the media electronically from Cape Town on June 8 2020.
SA Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux speaks to the media electronically from Cape Town on June 8 2020.
Image: Grant Pitcher/Gallo Images

SA Rugby is desperate to host the British and Irish Lions here next year and have confirmed they are even prepared to move back the dates.

The much revered and anticipated tour takes place every 12 years and next year’s visit by the team made up of the Home Unions is seen as a lifeline for SA Rugby already buffeted by the storm the Covid-19 pandemic brought to its shores.

SA Rugby last week reported a post-tax profit of R8.5m for 2019 but that‚ of course‚ does not take into account the severe disruption the coronavirus pandemic has caused to its business this year.

SA Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux confirmed a later time slot than the July 3 – August 7 that is being considered.

He said this is being considered to dovetail with all other Test scheduling conversations that were taking place with World Rugby.

“We have those scenarios in place‚ but the main question now is when it will be safe for international travel and for mass gatherings," said Roux.

"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."

Playing behind closed doors would be a scenario almost too ghastly to contemplate.

A Lions tour can attract upwards of 30,000 travelling spectators‚ which also brings much needed foreign currency into the local economy.

More pressing is the potential return of the sport in this country in August and Roux explained a range of possibilities for the return to Test rugby.

“There are a number of options.

"The postponed July Tests (against Georgia and Scotland) could still take place here in October; our northern hemisphere tour in November has not been cancelled and the possibility of playing the Rugby Championship in a single venue in ‘a bubble’ has also been workshopped.

“But as those all remain unconfirmed and reliant on factors outside of our control. But we also have a few other ideas up our sleeve‚ which we’re quite excited about‚ and will announce if and when they become necessary.”

World Rugby and its affiliates have with greater urgency workshopped the potential of a global calendar.

It has long been mooted but there has never been a catalyst to get the parties to bring it to fruition.

“The pandemic has had the side effect of wiping the slate clean when it comes to Test scheduling‚” said Roux.

“It has created the necessity of finding solutions for exceptional circumstances in 2020 and re-opened questions about what works best from an audience and player welfare perspective.

“There are some very interesting ideas being discussed and SA Rugby would be keen to see this pandemic have some positive spin-offs in terms of realignment.”

Roux said while nothing has been ruled out‚ it is too early to draw conclusions on South African joining the Pro14.

About the resumption of the local fixtures this year Roux said a re-designed Super Rugby and the Currie Cup were both possible.