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South Africa vs British and Irish Lions: why all tests will be played in Cape Town and why it’s good for Lions

The British and Irish Lions will finally face South Africa this Saturday evening in Cape Town in the first of three test matches.

Twelve years after a 2-1 loss to the Springboks, Warren Gatland has the opportunity to take revenge from the Red Sea against the defending World Cup holders.

British and Irish Lions to play all three tests against South Africa at sea level

And the Kiwi will probably be happy to learn that the three test matches will be played in Cape Town, instead of moving to Johannesburg.

Concerns over COVID-19 prompted Tour organizers to move the entire series to sea level at Cape Town Stadium.

When playing at altitude, the Springboks are notoriously hard to beat, but after “extensive consultation” with medical experts and with teams already in their respective “biological bubbles”, it has been decided that the safest option is was that both parties stay put.

“The data only pointed in one direction,” said Jurie Roux, managing director of SA Rugby.

South Africa vs British and Irish Lions: why all tests will be played in Cape Town and why it’s good for Lions
The Springboks would have hoped to play at least one game at altitude

“The series has already been significantly disrupted by COVID-19 and a return to Gauteng at this time would only increase the risks. We now have two teams in biosecure environments with no positive cases or isolated people.

“Going back to the Highveld now would put the series at a new risk. Everyone wants to see both teams, at their best, play an unforgettable series over the next three weekends and this decision gives us the best opportunity to see that happen.

Lions chief executive Ben Calveley said tourists were “fully in favor” of the decision, which is hardly surprising given the lessons of recent history.

In 1997, when the Lions last won a series in South Africa, they won the first two sea level tests in Cape Town and Durban respectively. At 1,724 meters in Ellis Park, there is only 82% of the oxygen available above sea level.


talkSPORT has live and exclusive coverage of the British & Irish Lions’ Tour in South Africa, and that continues this Saturday with the 1st test against world champion Springboks.

Coverage with Craig Doyle and former Lions Ben Kay, James Haskell, Tommy Bowe and Greig Laidlaw begins at 4 p.m. ET.

Before that, don’t miss the Lions Daily on talkSPORT 2 each day from 5:00 p.m. and on Fridays a special test preview on talkSPORT at 7:00 p.m. featuring legendary Lions coach Sir Ian McGeechan and World Cup winner Bryan Habana.

Download the talkSPORT app to listen.


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