The iconic Ian McGeechan, pre the 2009 Lions tour to South Africa, told the award-winning Guardian Newspaper’s South African-born sports writer Donald McCrae that what made the Lions so special in South Africa is “the way they’re seen in South African eyes: for them, just like us, each match between the Lions and Springboks is like a World Cup final.”
The ticket ballot to the British & Irish Lions eight-match rugby extravaganza opens on Wednesday, September 2 and South African residents will have until midnight on the 16th September to put in an order to which there is no guarantee of a ticket.
The demand will outnumber the supply, especially when it comes to a three-Test series that many have likened as three World Cup finals on successive Saturdays.
McGeechan, who played for the Lions in South Africa and who coached the Lions to a series win against the Springboks in 1997, said that to be part of a tour to South Africa with the Lions was unique.
“I will tell you something that took my breath away. I was with Martin Johnson and he told me that going on tour with the Lions to South Africa in 1997 was his greatest rugby experience. He said winning that Test series meant more to him than winning the World Cup. That had a profound impact and made me understand again the magnitude of the Lions in South Africa.”
Welshman Scott Gibbs, who dazzled for the Lions on the 1997 tour and inspired the series win with a Man of the Match display against the Springboks at Jonsson Kings Park in Durban, described touring South Africa with the Lions as “the dream tour.”
Gibbs, whose 15 matches for the Lions included five Tests, toured New Zealand in 1993, South Africa in 1997 and Australia in 2001. For him, there is South Africa and then the rest.
“As a player, it is the one tour you want to experience. The weather generally is a gift, every city has a different feel to it, there is such cultural diversity among the people and there is such a love for the game. It’s so raw in its energy and so wild. It’s a country that’s got edge,” said Gibbs.
“You know you aren’t lining up against just 15 players when you are in South Africa. You play an entire country and the atmosphere is always electric. You have to earn the respect of the South African supporter through your performance and when you do, they will laud you as they do their own players. I read a quote where Brian O’Driscoll said the thing about touring South Africa is that they just get it. I concur, the South Africans absolutely get it in how they respond to having the Lions in their country.”
The Lions play the DHL Stormers in Cape Town on 3rd July in the tour opener and play the Cell C Sharks the following Saturday in Durban. They complete their pre-Test schedule against the Vodacom Bulls on the 17th July.
And then it’s a repeat of the 2019 World Cup play-offs when the best of England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland combine against the world champion Springboks on three successive Saturdays.
A four-tier ticket system has made the pricing affordable for South Africans and there has been a particular push to ensure South Africans get cheaper access to tickets for the non-Test matches.
South Africa residents will also benefit because the majority of match day tickets for all eight matches can only be purchased by SA residents, through the local tour ticketing website, www.lionstour2021.co.za
No tickets will be available at match venues, through provincial unions or at the usual retail outlets and Tour Director Lourens Oberholzer cautioned that if anyone answered an online advertisement for Lions tickets, they were in danger of being defrauded, exploited and ticketless.
- How Does the Ballot Process Work?
Applicants will use the ballot to apply for tickets to their preferred match, ticket category, ticket quantity and, where applicable, hospitality package.
After the ticket ballot application phase has been completed there will be a computerised selection process. Applicants will then be notified if they have been successful in securing their preferred tickets.
- Why a Ticket Ballot?
The ballot system is used in all global major sporting events and is the fairest method of obtaining tickets.
Registration and entry into the ballot will not automatically entitle applicants to match-day tickets and the purpose of the registration and entry into the ballot places the applicant in the draw.