The British & Irish Lions and Springboks have agreed to hold all three Tests in Cape Town, it has been confirmed.
This weekend’s series opener in Cape Town was set to be followed by two Tests in Johannesburg at the FNB Stadium (July 31) and Ellis Park (August 7).
The change in thinking by tour organisers comes after an ever-increasing Covid-19 infection rate in Gauteng, the provincial home of Johannesburg and Pretoria, that has left health services stretched.
There is a bonus for both sides in the Tests being relocated, with Cape Town Stadium a stone’s throw from the city’s Waterfront and sea level. Whereas Johannesburg is close to 6,000ft above sea level which led to the Lions training preparations being laced with altitude simulation sessions at their pre-tour base in Jersey.
“The data pointed in only one direction,” CEO of SA Rugby Jurie Roux said.
“The Series has already been significantly disrupted by COVID-19 and a return to Gauteng at this time would only increase the risks.
“We now have two teams in bio-secure environments without any positive cases or anyone in isolation. To now return to the Highveld would expose the Series to renewed risk.
“Everyone wants to see the two squads, at their strongest, play out an unforgettable Series over the next three weekends and this decision gives us the best opportunity to see that happen.
“We have had great support from local government, and I’d like to thank both Gauteng and the City of Cape Town for their open-minded engagement in what has been a very challenging time.
“Extraordinary times have called for extraordinary measures and we have had support from all our commercial partners despite the challenges.”
Both teams have been directly affected by Covid-19 since the Lions arrived in South Africa, with Springboks captain Siya Kolisi among 26 squad and staff members to test positive earlier this month.
The Lions themselves had attack coach Gregor Townsend and full-back Stuart Hogg forced into quarantine earlier in the tour during their stay in Johannesburg.
“We are fully supportive of this decision which we believe to be in the best interest of the Test Series,” Lions managing director Ben Calveley said.