Does the British and Irish Lions tour in South Africa next year give us bang for our buck?

19 August 2020 - 13:17 By Liam Del Carme
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South African Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux.
South African Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux.

SA Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux used the lottery ticket analogy on Tuesday to talk up the importance of registering online for the right to watch the British and Irish Lions here next year.

In an even wider context‚ he could have said to be a big winner you need a ticket and that is perhaps the way South Africans should approach the much anticipated tour.

SA Rugby on Tuesday urged local fans to register and go into the ballot at between 2 and 16 September to avoid disappointment.

Despite what some may argue is exorbitant pricing‚ there will be a stampede for tickets‚ especially in the United Kingdom and Ireland once travel becomes easier and we have learned to better deal with the vagaries of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Of course‚ in the months to come the pandemic will throw a long‚ ominous shadow over the tour but the organisers have their sanitised fingers crossed.

The cheapest Test ticket is a Category D offering for R500 and the price climbs considerably as you step down to the best seats in the house. Category C tickets cost R1 250‚ Category B will sell for R2 000‚ while the prized seats will set you back R3 000.

These prices compare favourably with those set for the 2009 tour of the Lions.

For the matches outside the Tests prices vary from venue to venue but the lowest priced ticket to a Lions’ match next year will be for the matches in Port Elizabeth and Nelspruit which will cost R100.

What South Africans need to ask is whether the entertainment on offer is commensurate with the face value of the ticket amid a shrinking economy and an under-performing Rand.

They will be less bothered by the fact that the pricing is actually very competitive when compared to other international sporting events of similar ilk.

A Test ticket for the B&I Lions 2017 series in New Zealand would have set you back around R1 800 for the cheapest seat.

A Category A ticket to last year’s Rugby World Cup final cost around R16 800.

What South Africans will also want to know is whether they will get bang for their buck. In short‚ the series will pit the Rugby World Cup holders against a team comprising the best of Britain and Ireland who have not lost a series since they last toured here in 2009.

That in itself has blockbusting promise.

The fact that the Lions tours are on the endangered list should also factor into locals’ deliberations. They no longer hold the providence it once did on the game’s calendar.

As much as it is revered by those involved in them‚ they are like the fabulously festive uncle that stops by with a bulging duffel bag and then disappears as if he’s a leap year.

Rugby’s much mooted Global calendar is being shaped and what paw print Lions tours will have on them remains to be seen.

Over the last few decades almost all the energy and hype on Lions’ tours have gone into the Test matches. Commercially‚ midweek matches‚ we are told‚ have become a hard sell for broadcasters. On an increasingly congested calendar it is no surprise Lions tours have become more of a city hop than a safari.

In 1980 Bill Beaumont’s Lions played 18 matches‚ on their next visit to South Africa they played 13‚ while on their last visit in 2009 they ran out 10 times.

Next year’s tour features only eight matches. You can see where this is heading.

Lions tours may not be what they used to be but when you watch them you are left with the sense you’re getting a slice of history.

The fact is Lions’ tours are the stuff of legend. They tie us to the sport’s past like no other team’s steam boat or jet setting odysseys.

They conjure images of camaraderie and combat‚ brotherhood and blood‚ mischief and menace‚ revelling and reverie. Lions’ tours transport us to a time when the clock seemed to stand still and only the moment mattered.

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