Lions rugby bosses hope a package of safety measures about to be submitted to the South African government will allow fans to follow the tour.
It has long been assumed the Covid pandemic would make it impossible for the Lions’ 30,000-plus army of supporters to make the trip
But South Africa’s National Olympic Committee have drawn up a set of proposals aimed at getting fans back into stadiums.
These will be delivered to the government next week and SA Rugby president Mark Alexander says he hopes they are sufficient to persuade the authorities to give the green light to spectators.
Alexander said: “A comprehensive set of guidelines and protocols to get fans back into South African sports venues is going to our government from our National Olympic Committee next week.
“We have been heavily involved in the drafting and we believe it makes a strong case for a safe and sustainable return of supporters.”
Springboks legend Joel Stransky welcomed the NOC’s efforts, saying: “A Lions tour is all about the travelling fans.
“It’s about tourism, hotels, restaurants, beer, bars and fun. It’s about game parks and wine farms. It’s the total package, a complete life experience.
“I understand why fans might not be allowed, of course I do. But the reality is it would be a very strange tour without them – and it would be desperately sad.”
Alexander accepts that the SA Government’s response is “likely to be shaped by the progress of the pandemic” but insists there is NO threat to the matches taking place.
A week ago he spoke of “serious financial implications” for his organisation should the eight-match tour have to be played behind closed doors and warned that “we cannot ignore that in our considerations”.
But last night he moved to reassure the rugby world that come what may the show will go on.
“Even if we have to play behind closed doors the tour will go ahead,” he said.
“There is no reason to doubt the tour taking place. We have robust plans in place shaped from the benefit of a year of lessons from bio-secure environments around the world.”
The Springboks, meanwhile, are hatching plans to get themselves battle-ready, having not played a Test since beating England to win the 2019 World Cup.
Players will be released from the national squad to play for South Africa’s former Super Rugby sides – Bulls, Stormers, Sharks and Lions – in the Pro 14 Rainbow Cup, which runs between April and June.
During that competition the squad could be based either in Jersey or on the UK mainland. Discussions are ongoing.