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South Africa vs British & Irish Lions: Why all the Tests will be played in Cape Town and why is is good for the Lions

The British and Irish Lions will finally face off against South Africa this Saturday night in Cape Town in the first of three Test matches.

Twelve years after a 2-1 defeat to the Springboks, Warren Gatland has the chance to exact revenge for the Sea of Red against the reigning World Cup holders.

The British and Irish Lions will play all three Tests against South Africa at sea level

And the Kiwi is likely to be overjoyed at the news all three of the Test matches will be played at Cape Town, instead of switching to Johannesburg.

COVID-19 concerns have prompted Tour organisers to move the entire series at sea level to the Cape Town Stadium.

When playing at altitude, the Springboks are notoriously difficult to beat, but after ‘extensive consultation’ with medical experts and with the teams already in their respective ‘bio bubbles’ it has been decided the safest option is for both sides to stay put.

“The data pointed in only one direction,” said Jurie Roux, the SA Rugby chief executive.

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 without any positive cases or anyone in isolation.

“To now return to the Highveld would expose the series to renewed risk. Everyone wants to see the two squads, at their strongest, play out an unforgettable series over the next three weekends and this decision gives us the best opportunity to see that happen.”

The Lions’ managing director, Ben Calveley, said the tourists were ‘fully supportive’ of the decision, hardly a surprise given the lessons of recent history.

In 1997, when the Lions last won a series in South Africa, they won both the opening two Tests at sea level, in Cape Town and Durban respectively. At 1,724 metres, at Ellis Park there is only 82 per cent of the oxygen available compared with sea level.


talkSPORT has live and exclusive coverage of the British & Irish Lions’ Tour to South Africa, and it continues this Saturday with the 1st Test against the World Champion Springboks. 

Coverage with Craig Doyle and former Lions Ben Kay, James Haskell, Tommy Bowe and Greig Laidlaw begins from 4pm.

Before that though, don’t miss the Lions Daily on talkSPORT 2 each day from 5pm and on Friday a Test preview special on talkSPORT at 7pm including Lions legendary coach Sir Ian McGeechan and World Cup winner Bryan Habana.

Download the talkSPORT app to listen. 

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