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Rugby – Lions tour may be postponed

A South African rugby chief has said the 2021 British and Irish Lions tour could be suspended if fans can’t travel due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Warren Gatland is set to coach the Lions in South Africa in July 2021, but

Jurie Roux, SA Rugby’s chief executive, claimed the series would not be viable without fans in the stands.

“We are obviously looking at a number of different contingencies around what happens if Covid continues in the way that it currently does,’’ Roux said on SA Rugby Mag’s website. “To be fair, no spectators and an inability for people to travel would commercially not make this viable and there would be a serious reconsideration on how we then continue in terms of the tour.’’

Lions tours attract massive number of supporters, with the 2017 series versus the All Blacks drawing over 25,000 fans to New Zealand.

Roux said SA Rugby did give some thought to moving the 2021 tour to a later date, but we decided on the best-case information that we currently have, is that in all likelihood by June and July next year, travel would have returned to what is deemed normal and that we will be able to continue’’.

Moving the timeslot would be problematic given the lack of action over a global rugby calendar.

Roux said a later tour “would probably mess’’ with European club seasons, “which would make it highly unlikely’.

Lions tour tickets go on sale on September 2, but Roux said SA Rugby would be “assessing that on a weekly and monthly basis’’, and refunds would be given if the tour does not proceed.

Gatland is keen to extend his unbeaten series run as Lions coach. The New Zealander – who had a winless Super Rugby Aotearoa season with the Chiefs – coached the Lions to a series triumph in Australia in 2013 and a drawn rubber versus the All Blacks in 2017.

South Africa – the current Rugby World Cup champions – acquired their last series versus the Lions, 2-1, in 2009.

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