'You have to be joking': The possibility of a Lions tour hosted in Australia has divided pundits, players and fans alike
The series between the Lions and Springboks is under serious threat due to the current global pandemic which has seen both South Africa and the United Kingdom suffer widespread cases of the virus.
This has increased the likelihood that the matches would have to be played crowd-less in either country, which SARU have already declared impossible due to the financial ramifications that would bring.
According to The Times, Rugby Australia (RA) approached the RU about hosting the tour in Australia, with profits shared between the Lions and Springboks.
RA chair Hamish McLennan has confirmed to the Sydney Morning Herald that talks are underway, suggesting that the move would be a win-win situation for all involved.
The report was met equally by those vehemently opposed to the idea and those that see an Australian-hosted tour as a win-win way to host crowds and revenue-share back with the Springboks.
Former Wallaby James Horwill was in favour of the idea along with journalists Stuart Barnes & Paul Williams, but no common agreement could be made as those on the other side of the fence weighed in. Ex-Scotland international Jim Hamilton wrote ‘please no’ against the idea,
All for the Lions going to Australia to play South Africa.
Weird times need weird solutions.
Sounds good to me.
— Paul Williams (@thepaulwilliams) January 31, 2021
Please no. https://t.co/qyBK00iKsW
— Jim (@jimhamilton4) January 31, 2021
Safer, more crowds…all those Brits and Irish in Oz would generate an atmosphere in stadiums, even if it is grim news for our travel firms https://t.co/BfEHUTmjst
— Stuart Barnes (@SBarnesRugby) January 31, 2021
South Africa vs Lions in Australia? I mean all you have to do is read that again, will be a great shame if they even considering that.
— BJ Botha (@BJBotha) January 30, 2021
This makes sense if the tour is to go ahead this year. Big supporter base for both teams living in Aus so full stadiums.
Also Aus already have experience dealing with touring teams during COVID. https://t.co/FCCewTvMTs
— James Horwill (@JHorwill) January 31, 2021
Fans were equally divided over the proposal, with many sharing valid points for and against. Many fans felt that the ‘meaningful aspects of the tour’ would be missed, such as connecting with the local culture and the tradition of travelling fans.
A series hosted in Australia would likely only be attended by local Australians and ex-pats already living there, missing the ‘sea of red’ Lions fans that tour from the UK & Ireland.
Those in the opposed camp were prepared to scrap the tour altogether and postpone it until another time, which also isn’t feasible with future tours already scheduled for the home nations.
Brilliant idea. Move the British Lions test series in the summer from South Africa to Australia. Right now, this makes complete sense for obvious reasons.https://t.co/7xVu1WKG7X
— James Melville (@JamesMelville) January 31, 2021
Australians should piss off. British and Irish Lions tour should be canceled if they can't stage it in South Africa or postpone until 2022. Playing in Australia or UK wouldn't be right. And South Africa would lose. https://t.co/i3DeMGe3fX
— Lethabo (@CheetahPlains) January 31, 2021
The thought of getting up at 8am to watch the Springboks run out in Perth to play the Lions and having to hear Aussie commentary… it’s frankly a revolting image. Of all the potential solutions it is the single most unpalatable and disgusting one to SA fans.
— AP Cronje (@rugby_ap) January 31, 2021
But that removes all meaningful aspects of the _tour_. If they can’t play in SA, then better to just tour Australia and play the Wallabies and give SA the next tour slot?
— Stefan Andreasson (@StAndreasson) January 31, 2021
As a lions fan living in SA this would be far from ideal, with Sydney being +9 hrs, games would be at times that are not ideal for both UK and SA. SA is also in dire need for tourists and the revenue the tour would bring.
— Scott Gerald Parker (@scott_fricker) January 31, 2021
You have to joking,it’s a home series for SA or nothing,tell the Aussies to but out,the history behind a Lions tour of SA just can’t be replicated in Aus and they probably won’t let SA fans in anyway
— DoubleM (@ValeVultures) January 31, 2021
A lions tour without home fans isn’t a lions tour. If it can’t happen in SA this year then next. If it can’t happen next year then 4 years time.
If they did go ahead with this idea there wouldn’t be a tour to SA for another 12 years.
— Matt Pates (@patesy91) January 31, 2021
Win-win-lose Thousands of Lions supporters have booked and paid significant sums of money to go to South Africa for the tour. Not allowing fans from overseas to travel (relying on expats to fill the stadia) would be a massive loss for us
— Michelle (@CorkSeashell) January 31, 2021
This is likely the only path where crowds are able to attend and given the large SA expat communities in Perth + lure of the lions stadiums would sellout = maximise profit. Are there any other genuine options that have the tour going ahead this year?
— Charles Dollar (@charlesdollar99) January 31, 2021
Its a frankly ludicrous alternative.
I'd rather they just swapped the schedule and let them play the Aussies this summer and Bok's in '25.
There is little value for SA in it going the Australia in their year.
— thedeadballarea (@thedeadballarea) January 31, 2021
Wales captain and veteran of three Lions tours Alun Wyn Jones was adamant that delaying the tour was not an option.
“I think it needs to go ahead this year,” Jones said, speaking during Wednesday’s Guinness Six Nations virtual launch.
“The jury is out on where it will happen. We all know the jeopardy that it’s in. All being well, everyone will be safe and looked after if it does go ahead, for those guys selected.
“It would be a travesty if the fans weren’t able to go and see it.
Former Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus also earlier came out and said that they will explore every option for the tour to go ahead claiming they will ‘do whatever it takes’, signalling the upmost importance of the Lions tour to SA Rugby’s finances after a covid-impacted 2020 year.
“We desperately want to play the Lions, and we will do anything to play them,” he said.
“This series only comes around every 12 years. I have heard the different calls and opinions about the tour, and although we didn’t play in the Rugby Championship because of player welfare, it was also because we knew there was this big series in 2021.
“If option one of playing in South Africa doesn’t work out, we will go to option Z to make it happen.
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now