The British & Irish Lions are set to play in front of the largest-ever crowd for a Lions Test when they play the Springboks at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg.
The release of the tour schedule will see Warren Gatland lead a team in an eight-match tour of South Africa lasting six weeks.
As revealed by The Rugby Paper September 2 2018, SA Rugby intend to yield the maximum exposure in revenue from the tour which comes around once every 12 years for the host nation.
And at a capacity of 94,000, the FNB Stadium will host the first of the three Tests on July 24, where the record attendance of 84,188 who watched the 2001 series decider in Australia will be under threat.
The second Test will follow one week later when Cape Town’s new modern stadium will usurp the city’s traditional home of rugby, Newlands.
Ellis Park in Johannesburg will host the third and final Test, as it did in 2009.
“Touring South Africa is always a huge challenge, not only from a rugby perspective, but also in terms of the venues and the conditions facing the players,” said Gatland, whose Lions beat Australia in 2013 and drew the series with New Zealand in 2017.
“We are very comfortable that three of the games, two of which are Test matches, will be played at altitude. Our schedule falls in a way to allow us to start at sea level before building up and acclimatising to the unique environment that playing at altitude presents.”
Preparations for the Tests against the world champion Springboks will see the Lions face provincial sides Stormers, Sharks and Bulls, with matches against a South Africa invitational and South Africa ‘A’ mixed in.
His past experience as head coach of the Lions leaves Gatland as no stranger to the significance of gelling a squad quickly.
Gatland added: “Ensuring the team are absolutely primed for the Test matches is a critical element of any Lions Tour, and I am confident the quality of opposition we will face in the opening weeks will get us ready to take on the Springboks. The Bulls, Sharks and Stormers are all tough sides and present different challenges, which is exactly what we want.”
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