The schedule for Lions in South Africa is expected to change with the last two tests in Johannesburg
The schedule for the UK and Irish Lions tour to South Africa this summer will change. The first test in the three-game series will now take place in Cape Town before the final two tests in Johannesburg at altitude. Warm-up facilities in other locations in South Africa such as Durban and Port Elizabeth are also due to be relocated.
Lions head coach Warren Gatland spoke about the uncertainty surrounding the tour when his coaching staff announced this week, adding that he expected confirmation of the new schedule list shortly. The move would curtail Lions’ travel across South Africa amid the pandemic, as warm-up games only take place near Johannesburg and Cape Town.
“I’m not 100 percent sure, but I understand for now that the games will be on the same dates as the original tour and there will be three tests. It looks like it will be in two locations. Start So possibly in Johannesburg, then three games in Cape Town, with the first test there and then the second and third tests in Johannesburg. “
Based on Gatland’s comments, the Lions will play the first Test against South Africa on July 24th at Cape Town Stadium before the second and third Tests take place in Johannesburg on July 31st and August 7th.
Lions prepare for the final two altitude tests by doing altitude training with masks during their pre-tour training camp in Jersey, using the altitude chamber in the base gym, and spending the first two weeks of the tour at altitude to be around themselves to acclimate.
“It’s positive from that perspective,” added Gatland. “The altitude won’t make a difference to us and we’ll be prepared for it before we go.”
The door remains open to allow Gatland to add another coach to its back room staff to join Gregor Townsend (attacking), Steve Tandy (defense), Robin McBryde (striker) and Neil Jenkins (kicking). Townsend, who turned down the 2017 tour opportunity after being taken on as head coach for Scotland, admitted he spoke with Gatland back in November about being part of this year’s coaching staff.
Graham Rowntree and Steve Borthwick retired from the tour last week, with McBryde replacing Rowntree at the last minute to oversee the crush. Further additions will depend on the home unions’ tour plans this summer, which have yet to be finalized. Andy Farrell, the Irish head coach, originally wanted from Gatland as part of the coaching staff.
“I would have loved if Andy had come. We didn’t know what the situation was like with Ireland. When they were on tour, I understood the commitment to it. I left for as long as I could.”
Gatland added that he would not see the Saracens’ championship games in the coming weeks, stating that despite poor Six Nations like Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje and Jamie George, “they have received recognition from what they have done in the past have done whether it wins in Europe or plays for England or previous Lions tours. “
The Lions also hope that all 36 players on the roster will be vaccinated before they leave for South Africa. Gatland announced that he had his first vaccination a few weeks ago and that the Irish players in the tour group could be vaccinated in the UK if necessary.
“I just think it would be a brilliant message bringing people together if we could vaccinate the entire tour company,” Gatland said.