The Lions Board confirmed its preference to SA Rugby on Monday evening, prior to follow-up meetings earlier today.
“After reviewing information relating to the various contingency scenarios being considered, I can confirm that the Board’s intended position is for the Tour to go ahead as scheduled in South Africa in 2021,” said Mr Jason Leonard, Chairman of The British & Irish Lions.
“We acknowledge that there is a significant amount of work still to be undertaken to deliver a robust COVID-19 countermeasure plan to ensure a successful, safe and uninterrupted Tour. SA Rugby will have our full support to help implement this plan.”
Mr Mark Alexander, President of the South African Rugby Union, said he would inform the Executive Council of SA Rugby of the alignment.
“We appreciate the Lions’ faith and share their desire to see a safe and successful tour,” said Mr Alexander.
“We have been in regular contact with our government to make that a reality against the backdrop of the pandemic and its predicted progression over the coming months.
“There are serious financial implications for SA Rugby, should the event take place without any supporters in attendance, and we cannot ignore that in our considerations. But we are determined that the eventual outcome will deliver the best occasion and experience for players, supporters and our commercial partners.”
Mr Alexander said that the original tour schedule was subject to review because of those considerations. Should any changes be required they will be communicated as soon as possible.
SA Rugby assured everyone who had purchased tickets through the ticket ballot or as part of the official hospitality programme that they would be entitled to a full refund, with the mechanic to be communicated in due course once any revised schedule was confirmed.
Those who had bought official travel packages through SA Rugby Travel would be contacted by a company representative in due course.
Mr Leonard added: “Every British and Irish player dreams of wearing the famous red jersey, and players from the southern hemisphere aspire to be part of a Lions series. We owe it to the current players vying for a place in both squads to ensure they can become part of Lions history.
“We are very much looking forward to taking on South Africa for what promises to be a highly-competitive Series against the reigning World Champions.”
Mr Alexander thanked the Castle Lager Lions Series’ commercial partners as well as the British & Irish Lions and ticket holders for their patience during the extended period of uncertainty.
“As hosts and ‘owners’ of the Castle Lager Lions Series no one has been more affected or more challenged by the current circumstances than SA Rugby,” said Mr Alexander.
“However, with the support of our government and good planning we can navigate the pandemic to nonetheless create a most memorable event for players, fans and partners.”
The British & Irish Lions have toured South Africa on 13 previous occasions, with the first Tour taking place in 1891. In that time, the Lions have won four Test series, lost eight with one drawn. Their overall record against the Springboks is played 46, won 17, lost 23 and drawn six.