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The British & Irish Lions Tour to South Africa 2021…….September News Bites

September 30th, 2020Rugby

It’s all happening, as they say!... and since we heard it was all happening at Expat Sport, the newsfeed on next year’s Lions tour to take on the mighty Springboks has not stopped buzzing. Not that we mind, as our job is to take you and your friends, colleagues and clients on the ultimate sports journey to enjoy one of the unique rugby experiences of a lifetime set in an amazing country.

South African rugby fans flock for tickets to all eight Lions matches

SA Rugby’s official ticketing website reported receiving applications for almost 324,000 tickets from resident South Africa supporters joining the ballot to attend the eight matches included in The British & Irish Lions Tour next summer. It was confirmed that more than 260,000 fans had visited the website in the last few days of access.

Jurie Roux, South Africa's Rugby chief, was in high spirits as he offered his comments to the media:  

“The last couple of months have been challenging as we fought the COVID-19 pandemic, and it was heart-warming to see the interest from South Africans to experience a truly unique tour, which comes around only once every 12 years.

“As we’ve expected, interest in the three Tests was extremely high – they are two to three times oversubscribed – but we are confident that we’ll get as many people as possible into the stadiums.”

Roux went on to talk about the draw for tickets made via a computerised selection system, saying that supporters who had applied would not necessarily receive tickets for all the matches they had requested. He added that due to the enormous demand, some applicants may not be allocated any tickets at all, but qualified his comment:

“We also know that not everyone will take up the tickets they are issued and there will be a re-sale phase later on, so all doors are not necessarily closed.”

However, he advised supporters to avoid obtaining tickets through unofficial sources:

“But we do want to warn fans and discourage them from buying from illicit vendors as those tickets cannot be guaranteed.”

Head coach Gatland already scouting for his Lions squad in September

Warren Gatland assumed his scouting duties this month ahead of The British and Irish Lions tour of South Africa scheduled to take place between the 3rd of July and 7th of August 2021.

New Zealander Gatland is the former and by far the longest-serving Wales coach with 12 years in charge. While 2021will see him lead the touring side into a third series as head coach; having previously led the Lions to a 2013 series win in Australia and a drawn series with New Zealand in 2017.

He has already begun to watch live matches in Premiership and tournament rugby in the UK and Ireland in preparation for his squad pick next year. From mid-September Warren Gatland has been spotted at Gloucester v Harlequins at Kingsholm plus the Heineken Champions and Challenge Cup quarter-finals in the knockout stage. The latter included a prime contest between Leinster and Saracens in Dublin. Seven players from these two clubs started for the Lions in New Zealand 2017.

Gatland will accelerate the scouting process in October to take in both European and Premiership finals along with the conclusion of the now revived Guinness Six Nations championship following a lengthy pause due to coronavirus.

South African prop Schoeman aspiring to play for The British & Irish Lions

Scottish club Edinburgh’s prop Pierre Schoeman has yet to play for Scotland but firmly believes he will, with selection for the The British and Irish Lions is also high on his list of objectives.

Not such a farfetched aspiration, as Schoeman will be able to represent Scotland far sooner than expected. This follows World Rugby’s extension of the three-year residency rule as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic; it will now be reset to a five-year period at the end of 2021.

This makes the 26-year-old South African prop eligible to play for Scotland by the middle of next year as opposed to 2023. The former Bulls player completed his move to Edinburgh in 2018 and is tipped to pull on the Scottish shirt given some outstanding performances in Pro14 seasons to date.

Schoeman was quoted in an interview with Rapport South Africa’s Afrikaans-language weekly newspaper, published by Media24.

“Instead of having to wait for five years I now qualify next year.”

“This is a huge motivation for me and it’s not about the money. You want to be able to tell your child one day you played international rugby and against the best. It’s every rugby players dream.”

Although Schoeman remains cautious in terms of the pace of his ambition, he nonetheless has big goals which include playing for the Lions.

“To play for the Bulls [back in South Africa] was the greatest honour for me. Running out onto the pitch at Loftus was a huge milestone,” he explained

“Now it’s Edinburgh, then Scotland and then hopefully The British & Irish Lions. I’d love to play in a World Cup, but right now it’s one step at a time.”

Schoeman is among four South Africans named in the 2019/2020 season Pro14’s Dream Team.

“It’s also nice to see other South Africans making it into the dream team. Joseph Dweba, Jaco van der Walt and Duhan van der Merwe are all there with me.

“Duhan has already qualified to play for Scotland, Jaco will in November and I will be next year July,” he concludes. 

Which presents the interesting scenario, where potentially multiple Springboks could become eligible for Lions squad places in 2021.