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British Airways flies British and Irish Lions to South Africa

South Africa might remain firmly on the UK government's red list, which strongly discourages travel, but that wasn't enough to keep the British and Irish Lions at home. Courtesy of British Airways, the team is already on South African soil and one match in (and up) on their countrywide tour.
British Airways flies British and Irish Lions to South Africa

Additional lockdown measures in South Africa and the UK’s ongoing travel bans to the country clearly aren’t enough to affect the spirit of rugby in these two countries. These two giants on the international sporting stage haven’t clashed since 2009, and a rematch is long overdue after the South Africans trounced the Lions two to one.

Fostering the spirit of international sport

According to the UK’s regulations, elite sportspeople aren’t exempt from 10-day quarantine measures on returning unless they’re participating in one of the events listed in Schedule 11 of the Health Protection Regulations 2021. Although the UEFA Euro 2020 competition currently underway in Europe, features on the list, the rugby tournament does not.

Despite this, the 37-man team boarded a Boeing 777 at Edinburg Airport on 27 June for their 11-hour flight to Johannesburg. Upon arrival, the team was greeted by the onset of additional lockdown measures in the country which largely confine them to their hotel except for practices and matches.

British and Irish Lions assistant coach Robin McBryde feels with nothing else to focus on but rugby, these restrictions could stand his team in good stead. The current two-week long lockdown measures are under reviews long before the end of the six-week tour, so hopefully the team will get to experience a little more of the country during their stay.

British Airways proud to transport the British and Irish Lions

BA’s CEO, Sean Doyle has expressed his delight at this opportunity for British Airways to play a role in bringing some light relief to two countries that have suffered long and hard under ongoing waves of the coronavirus. The Airline wishes the team all the best of luck and hope that they’ll be transporting the newly crowned champions home at the end of it.

The team face up to South Africa’s local teams in eight matches in Pretoria, Johannesburg, and Cape Town during their tour. In the course of their travels, they’ll set off on British Airways flights courtesy of Comair, which falls under the wing of British Airways and still flies in its livery.

The British Lions Tour to South Africa

The tour includes three test matches against the reigning world champions, three matches versus top local sides the Stormers, Sharks, and Lions as well as one challenge against the South Africa A side.

The first test match kicked off on 3 July with a hammering of the hosts, the Emirates Lions 56-14 at Emirates Airlines Park in Johannesburg. The British Lions remain in Johannesburg to meet the Cell C Sharks on 7 July.

From there, the action moves to Pretoria where the Vodacom Bulls will face up to the touring side at Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Pretoria. Next, British Airways will fly the British and Irish Lions on a flight to Cape Town where they will tackle the South Africa A side, and the DHL Stormers on 14 and 17 July respectively.

After that it’s non-stop action against the Springboks on 24 July in Cape Town, followed by a further two test matches during the last two weeks of the tour.

No room for complacency on tour

With level 4 lockdown regulations in place across the country amidst a third wave of infections, there are indications that the last three matches will all be staged in Cape Town where the Covid-19 situation is not as severe. A decision on this is expected on 5 or 6 July.

Rugby fans on both sides are relieved to hear that this long-awaited contest will continue despite ongoing challenges and British Airways is rightfully proud to be the ones making it all possible.

Unfortunately, all the matches take place in empty stadiums, but fans can still catch up with the action thanks to live broadcasts of all the games. While this can’t make up for the unbelievable atmosphere of attending a rugby match live, it’s a long-awaited breakthrough for international sport between these two countries.

Sources: Provided and

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