The historic tour of the British and Irish Lions among the South African world champions will be played behind closed doors announced on Tuesday the president of the South African Rugby Federation, Mark Alexander.
A terrible disillusionment for the Anglo-Saxon supporters who, traditionally, travel by tens of thousands to follow the selection in the red jersey bringing together every four years the best players from the four nations (England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland).
The Lions arrived in South Africa on Monday, where they are scheduled to play eight matches, including three tests against the Springboks, crowned in Japan at the end of 2019. The country is in the throes of a third wave of COVID-19 infections, which has resulted in new strict restrictions, including a 9 p.m. curfew. With 18,000 new cases per day, South Africa is the most affected country on the African continent in terms of recorded cases and deaths.
If he has announced that there will be no supporters in the stadiums, the president of SA Rugby says he is convinced that the COVID-19 protocols in place will allow all scheduled matches to take place.
The Springboks however reported three positive cases of COVID-19 in their team on Sunday, with scrum half Herschel Jantjies then declared negative after a second test.
I don't see things changing dramatically overnight
,” said Mark Alexander.
We have to admit that there will be no spectators.
But the tour will be disputed, all matches, even those against the Provinces will take place.
"If we don't play rugby this year, we will have to close the door"
Mark Alexander, President of SA Rugby
The Springboks, who haven't been able to play a test since winning the World Cup in November 2019, are in the red financially. The South African federation was thus forced to reduce its 2020 budget by 84 million euros. The cancellation of the series against the Lions, synonymous with a new year without a match and without TV rights, would have meant the disappearance of professional rugby in South Africa.
If we don't play rugby this year, we will have to close the door,"
said Mark Alexander.
Without the revenue it would have had an impact on the budgets of everyone from Springboks to rugby to school… We are living in difficult times, but we have spent hundreds of millions of rand on this event. We have to keep going and make it work.