CAPETOWN (Reuters) – The British and Irish Lions will play the first test of their 2021 three-match series in South Africa at the giant Soccer City stadium in front of what is likely to be a record-breaking crowd against the newly-crowned rugby world champions.
The match will be played on July 24 of that year, with the second test to be staged at the Cape Town Stadium a week later.
The third game is scheduled to be back on the Highveld at the Springboks’ traditional fortress of Ellis Park in Johannesburg on August 7.
The record attendance for a single Lions test is 84,188 in Australia in 2001, but should be surpassed at Soccer City, which was the venue for the final of the 2010 Soccer World Cup.
A total of 94,713 came to watch the Boks play New Zealand at the venue just months after the end of the football showpiece.
The combined capacity of the venues for the three tests is a shade under 205,000, with the expected sell-out attendances to therefore surpass the 192,972 spectators who watched the 2013 visit to Australia.
The Lions will open their tour with a series of warm-up matches, starting against Super Rugby side the Stormers in Cape Town on July 3, before a midweek clash against a South African Invitational team in Port Elizabeth.
They will move up the coast to meet the Sharks in Durban on July 10, before another midweek encounter with South Africa A in Nelspruit on the border of the famous Kruger National Park.
Their final fixture before the test series starts will be against the Bulls in Pretoria on July 17.
“I am absolutely thrilled with how this schedule looks,” Lions coach Warren Gatland said. “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.
“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.”
The Lions have toured South Africa twice since the country was readmitted to international rugby in 1992, claiming a surprise 2-1 series victory five years later, before losing by the same margin in 2009.
On both previous times they visits the Boks have also been world champions.
(Reporting By Nick Said; Editing by Catherine Evans)