You’d be forgiven for thinking that the British & Irish Lions tours of South Africa were as old as the Drakensberg Mountains themselves. Various shiftings of the sands caused by the COVID pandemic have meant this tour very nearly did not do ahead. That would have been an incredible shame.
The pinnacle of rugby for many Home Nations player is to be picked for this team. The planning and cyclical nature of touring in rugby means that the stars really do have to be aligned before boarding that jet to Cape Town, Johannesburg or Durban. This tradition started in 1891 and has also seen fixtures in other parts of the Commonwealth such as Australia and New Zealand. A very long heritage indeed.
It is a throwback to rugby’s “amateur” roots. To a simpler time, when rivalries across unions were perhaps more easily put to one side and the demands of commercial obligations played no part whatsoever in the camaraderie of what is now referred to on social media as the “rugby family”.
The task facing the Lions is not unlike 2009. South Africa were reigning Rugby World Cup champions at that time too, and defeated the touring side in two out of the three Test Matches. The initial squad was made up from 37 payers, quite evenly spread between the Home Nations: 11 players from England, 10 from Wales, 8 from Ireland and 8 from Scotland. The management team is driven by Kiwi Warren Gatland, aided by Gregor Townsend, Robin McBryde, Steve Tandy and Neil Jenkins. On the Springbok side, Rassie Erasmus has taken up a Director of Rugby role since the RWC victory in 2019 with Jacques Nienaber taking up Head Coach duties.
It will be an epic clash of two rugby titans. Combined, the Home Nations have exceptional depth of squad that individually can be lacking in the likes of the 6 Nations. The Springboks, however, have long made a prerequisite of seemingly growing players of every conceivable position in the Highveld. They will be prepared and up for the challenge.
24th July 1800 CET: 1st Test, Cape Town
31st July 1800 CET: 2nd Test, Johannesburg
7th August 1800 CET: 3rd Test, Johannesburg
You can watch the Tests at many bars and pubs throughout Gibraltar, including the Arena Bar and the Lord Nelson.
Find out more at lionsrugby.com