SA Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux has said there is a ‘slight chance’ the dates planned for the 2021 British & Irish Lions tour could be changed to accomodate rugby’s shift to a global calendar.
Under the dates of its current schedule, the Lions are set to embark on a five-week tour of South Africa on July 3 next summer.
But with Six Nations and SANZAAR locked in talks over the aligning northern and southern hemisphere Test windows, the Lions tour could be moved to as late as November.
“The tour is going on and the time is still fixed on where it is, but there might be a date change,” SA Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux said in a press briefing.
“There is a slight chance that, to align with a new global calendar, it might move to either a September/October or October/November window and that is only because if that is the only hurdle of getting the global calendar across the line, we wouldn’t want to be the hindrance to that.”
The Rugby Paper exclusively reported last month a start date for the Six Nations under a global calendar would see the northern hemisphere tournament move from its traditional February window to start in April.
Clear windows have been set for domestic and European club rugby to be integrated with international matches. The Premiership is believed to be considering a December to July season.
But the Lions’ standing within the global calendar remains unknown until further developments from World Rugby, Six Nations and SANZAAR.
Roux stated the significance of Lions tours to the host nations was akin to the World Cup, especially when forecasting on the financial windfall the union stands to net from the tour.
“Second only to the World Cup, it is the biggest thing on the calendar,” Roux added. “The commercial model we have put up as a joint venture between us and the Lions is actually pretty ‘out there’.
“We have thrown away the textbook on it. It is a completely different model. It is a sharing of revenue, logos and IP (intellectual property) and commercial value, and something that in a post-COVID world will help us operate as a going concern.”
The 2009 tour of South Africa was decided in a ferociously competitive second Test at Loftus Versfeld by a game-winning penalty kick from Morné Steyn.
They return to Pretoria under head coach Warren Gatland on July 17 for the penultimate tour match against the Bulls, before the three-Test series gets underway.
Johannesburg’s FNB Stadium, purpose-built for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, will host the first Test between the Lions and the Springboks.
The second Test takes both teams to the Western Cape where they will meet at the Cape Town Stadium, set to become the new home of the Stormers.
A potential decider will be held at the historical landmark of South African rugby – Ellis Park – on August 7.