British & Irish Lions chairman Jason Leonard said that arrangements for the tour of South Africa later this year remain fluid, but that facing the world champion Springboks on African soil has always been their number one wish.
The Lions are set to visit the country for eight fixtures including three test matches between July 3 and August 7, but Leonard says the schedule, venues and whether fans will be allowed at matches remains up in the air. The Lions have not toured South Africa since 2009.
There have been suggestions that the test series against the Boks could be staged in the United Kingdom, while Rugby Australia also put forward a proposal to host due to fears around COVID-19.
“It is such a fluid piece of work at this time,” former Lions prop Leonard told reporters on Friday. “It can change on the drop of a sixpence, but preparations are moving forward, which is the best position we can be in at this moment in time.
“It has always been our position we want to tour, we are a touring team. South Africa have said they can host us and so we have a responsibility to the fans, players and people in South Africa who have been looking forward to this for 12 years.”
SA Rugby is to petition the South African government next week to allow fans into the stadiums, albeit likely in much reduced numbers, which would then dictate if the schedule is spread around the country, or played only in venues in the nearby major cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria.
But as Leonard pointed out, even that would be dependent on the COVID-19 situation in the country at the time.
“Nothing is confirmed at this moment of time (in terms of a change in schedule). It is obviously one of the options, but we are dealing with a very fluid situation. We hope to get things nailed down sooner rather than later, though there is no set deadline.
“All I can say is that we are moving forward and we are much happier in this position, working towards a tour of South Africa.”