CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - The British and Irish Lions have scrapped plans to play matches all around South Africa and will instead utilise two bio-secure bubbles in Cape Town and Johannesburg, officials confirmed on Friday.
At this stage matches will be played behind closed doors, but South African Rugby officials are hopeful they will be able to persuade authorities to have limited fan attendance.
"It has been a challenging process with dozens of variables to consider but we believe we have arrived at a schedule that minimises the risks associated with the pandemic," SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux said in a statement.
"We are hopeful that restrictions on attendance at sports events will be relaxed but, for the moment, we are planning for an event behind closed doors."
The Lions start the tour against South Africa’s Johannesburg-based provincial union of the same name at Ellis Park on July 3, before a clash with the Sharks at the famous venue four days later.
They then take on the Bulls in their nearby Pretoria home on July 10.
The tour will move to Cape Town and a meeting with South Africa ‘A’ on July 14, followed by a fixture against the local Stormers three days later.
The first test will also be at the Cape Town Stadium on July 24, before the players move back to Gauteng for the second test a week later at the cavernous FNB Stadium.
The series will be completed with the third test at the same venue on Aug. 7.
The Lions will also face Japan in a ‘home’ test at Murrayfield on June 26, with officials suggesting that a decision on the potential crowd size will be made nearer the time.
British & Irish Lions tour itinerary:
June 26 vs Japan at Murrayfield (Edinburgh)
July 3 vs Lions (South Africa) at Ellis Park (Johannesburg)
July 7 vs Sharks at Ellis Park (Johannesburg)
July 10 vs Bulls at Loftus Versfeld (Pretoria)
July 14 vs South Africa ‘A’ at Cape Town Stadium
July 17 vs Stormers at Cape Town Stadium
July 24 vs South Africa at Cape Town Stadium (first test)
July 31 vs South Africa at FNB Stadium (Johannesburg, second test)
Aug 7 vs South Africa at FNB Stadium (Johannesburg, third test)
(Reporting by Nick Said; Editing by Toby Davis)