South Africa planning to stage Lions tour behind closed doors

File: No supporters will be allowed into the stadiums to watch the British and Irish Lions unless there is a change of government policy in South Africa. AFP/Alexander Joe

JOHANNESBURG - South Africa rugby chiefs said they were planning for all matches on the British and Irish Lions tour to be played behind closed doors, with the coronavirus pandemic forcing changes to the schedule.

A revised itinerary for the eight fixtures has been published, with alterations made to reduce travel and create stable team bases.

"All eight matches of the tour will be played in Gauteng or Cape Town to minimise the risks of disruption that could be caused by the COVID-19 pandemic," said a joint statement from SA Rugby and the Lions.

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There is one team change in the revised schedule, with the Johannesburg-based Emirates Lions replacing the SA Invitational side in the tour opener on July 3.

SA Rugby said the fixtures, including the three-Test series against the Springboks, were being organised on the basis they would take place without fans present.

“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," said SA Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux. 

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

South Africa is Africa's worst virus-hit country, accounting for about a third of all cases in the region.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize warned last week of a looming third wave of infections likely to coincide with the upcoming southern hemisphere winter. 


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