The touring side of the British and Irish Lions is one sport’s most unique teams, combining the best players from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales to tour one of Australia, New Zealand or South Africa once in every four years.
After an exciting drawn tour of New Zealand in 2017, the Lions return to South Africa for the first time in 12 years. The 2009 touring side captained by Paul O’Connell lost 2-1, with the squad of 2021 hoping for better fortunes.
The Lions will play a total of eight matches in July and August 2021 on their tour of South Africa – five tour matches against local sides and three test matches against the Springboks, travelling across six different cities.
The ‘Rainbow Nation’ of South Africa is one of the most diverse and fascinating countries in the world, offering the chance to get up close to wildlife and view some amazing landscapes (whilst watching some great rugby along the way!).
Please read on for a full guide to the 2021 British and Irish Lions Tour of South Africa, including travel advice, city and venue guides and ticket information.
- South Africa – Key Information
- Travelling to South Africa & Visa
- Travelling across South Africa
- City & Venue Guides
- British & Irish Lions/South Africa Squads
- How do I get tickets to the 2021 British & Irish Lions Tour?
- 2021 British & Irish Lions Tour Schedule
South Africa – Key Information
Capital – Pretoria (executive), Bloemfontein (judicial), Cape Town (legislative)
Currency – South African Rand (ZAR)
Official & Recognised Languages – English, Zulu, Xhosa, Afrikaans, Northern Sotho, Tswana, Southern Sotho, Tsonga, Swazi, Venda, Southern Ndebele
Population – 57.78 million
Time – UTC+2 (SAST)
Travelling to South Africa & Visa
The major international airports of South Africa are in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban which between them have flights across the world. Nelspruit also has an international airport for travelers en route to the Kruger National Park.
Entry Requirements & Visas
Tourists from many countries, including the UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Japan, the USA and most Western European countries are given a free 90 day visitor’s permit upon arrival in South Africa.
If you are a UK citizen, you can view the UK’s government latest advice on entry requirements to South Africa by clicking here. For other passport holders, consult your own government’s travel advice for entry to South Africa.
Travelling across South Africa
Air – As well as the major international airports in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban, domestic airports can be found in cities such as Port Elizabeth, East London, George and Bloemfontein.
There are a number of South Africa Airlines partners and budget airlines which offer affordable travel across the country. Search & book your flights through Skyscanner.
Bus/Coach – Long distance buses are an alternative to flying, but require a lot of patience as the journey’s can be long! City to City, Greyhound, Intercape and Translux are some of the most well known companies offering travel between major cities. There are a couple of backpacker shuttle operators that offer hop-on, hop-off fares such as Baz Bus and the Mzansi Experience.
Car Hire – Hiring a car is a relatively inexpensive way of travelling across South Africa, meaning you can dictate your own itinerary and pace. There are many companies offering car hire and can be found across most major towns, with one-way hire often available.
Train – Travelling by train is a great way to experience the vastness of South Africa. The Shosholoza Meyl long-distance passenger trains are safe and comfortable, linking Johannesburg with Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth & East London. The overnight journey from Johannesburg to Cape Town costs 690 Rand in a 2-berth or 4-berth sleeper. If you’re looking for a more luxurious journey, the famous Blue Train runs between Cape Town and Pretoria, costing from 10,120 Rand.
City & Venue Guides
3rd July 2021 – Stormers v British and Irish Lions (Cape Town Stadium)
31st July 2021 – South Africa v British and Irish Lions (Cape Town Stadium)
Cape Town is South Africa’s ‘Mother City’, being at the forefront of the development of the country and is one of the most dramatic cities in the world, overlooked by the spectacular Table Mountain and flanked by pristine beaches.
Cape Town Stadium Venue Guide
The British and Irish Lions will play two matches at the Cape Town Stadium on the 2021 tour, their first appearances at the venue. A full guide to visiting the picturesque stadium including background and travel information is available here.
Travelling to Cape Town
Airport – Cape Town International Airport is the second busiest airport in South Africa and fourth busiest in the African continent. The airport has direct international connections to several destinations in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Europe and the United States and domestic connections Johannesburg and Durban.
The A01 MyCiTi bus runs between Cape Town Civic Centre and the Airport, costing around R70 and running every 20 minutes.
Train – Cape Town railway station is the main hub of the Metrorail Western Cape, for services in and around Cape Town. There are also Shosholoza Meyl intercity services daily to Johannesburg via Kimberley, and weekly services to a weekly service to Durban, Bloemfontein, Pietermaritzburg and East London.
Where to stay in Cape Town
What to do in Cape Town
- Take a cable car to the top of Table Mountain and enjoy amazing views across the city.
- Visit the infamous Robben Island, touring the prison of where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated.
- Head to the Cape of Good Hope for deserted beaches and great scenery.
- Walk through the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, ranking among one of the most beautiful in the world.
- Get up close to the penguin colony at Boulders Beach.
- Wonder among the shops, restaurants and bars of the historic V&A Waterfront.
10th July 2021 – Sharks v British and Irish Lions (Kings Park Stadium)
The largest city in the KwaZulu-Natal province, Durban is known for its beaches, world class surfing and large Indian community.
Kings Park Stadium Venue Guide
The Lions played two matches at Kings Park Stadium in the last tour of South Africa in 2009 – defeating the Sharks 39-3 before narrowly losing the first test of the tour 26-21. A full guide to visiting the historic stadium including background and travel information is available here.
Travelling to Durban
Air – The King Shaka International Airport is the primary airport for Durban, located approximately 35 kilometers to the north of the city. The airport was opened in 2010 ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup and now has links to London, Dubai, Doha, Istanbul and domestic destinations in South Africa.
Where to stay in Durban
What to do in Durban
- Head to the beach – Durban is famed for its beaches with the Golden Mile being particularly attractive, stretching 4 miles from Blue Lagoon South to Addington Beach and Durban Harbor.
- The uShaka Marine World is a vast complex that includes an aquarium and a water park, being Durban’s most popular tourist attraction.
- The Durban Botanical Gardens has an array of living fossil plants, extending back 250 million years.
- The Moses Mabhida Stadium isn’t just an impressive stadium, it offers the tallest swing in the world 262 feet above the ground. You can also climb the arch or ride the SkyCar to the top.
24th July 2021 – South Africa v British and Irish Lions (FNB Stadium)
7th August 2021 – South Africa v British and Irish Lions (Ellis Park Stadium)
Johannesburg, often called Jo’burg or Jozi is the largest city in South Africa and is a rapidly changing giant, offering stark contrasts.
FNB Stadium Venue Guide
The Lions will potentially play in front of their biggest ever crowd in the 95,000 seater FNB Stadium, their first appearance at the venue. A guide to visiting the impressive stadium, also known as Soccer City is available here.
Ellis Park Stadium Venue Guide
The Lions last faced the Springboks at Ellis Park in the third test of the 2009 tour, winning 28-9 as they ultimately lost the series 2-1. A guide to visiting the historic venue, currently known as Emirates Airline Park is available here.
Travelling to Johannesburg
Airport – O. R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg is South Africa’s primary international and domestic airport, offering direct flights to destinations on all continents.
From the airport, the Gautrain runs to Sandton in 15 minutes, for connections to Pretoria and Johannesburg change at Marlboro. There are plans for there to be a direct service to Pretoria and Johannesburg from the airport.
Bus – Johannesburg Park Station is the main bus terminus for the city, with the well known companies of City to City, Greyhound, Intercape and Translux all offering intercity travel from there. There are also international services to Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.
Train – Johannesburg Park Station is also the central rail hub for Johannesburg and largest railway station in Africa. It is the main hub of the Metrorail Gauteng, for services in and around the province as well as a terminus for long distance Shosholoza Meyl intercity services to Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth, East London, Bloemfontein via Kimberley, Komatipoort via Nelspruit and Musina via Polokwane.
Where to stay in Johannesburg
What to do in Johannesburg
- The Apartheid Museum is a must see to learn about the era of segregation in South Africa.
- The former prison at Constitution Hill where Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi were once held is now an important museum offering an insight into the history of the country.
- The Gold Reef City amusement park is located on an old gold mine and takes you through the gold rush through theme park rides and historic exhibitions.
- Take a tour of the famous Soweto township and visit the Mandela House, a converted museum where Nelson Mandela lived from 1946 to 1962.
- Whilst in Soweto take a bungee jump off the colourful Orlando Towers, a former power station.
- The Cradle of Humankind is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the world’s most important paleo-anthropological areas.
14th July 2021 – South Africa ‘A’ v British and Irish Lions (Mbombela Stadium)
Officially called Mbombela since 2009 but still referred to as Nelspruit, it is not unfair to say that most tourists visit the town on their way to Kruger National Park or Mozambique.
Mbombela Stadium Venue Guide
The Lions have not played at Mbombela Stadium before but did previously take on the Emerging Springboks on the 2009 tour in an entertaining match, which included a last minute converted try by the Boks to draw 13-13. A full guide to visiting the safari-themed stadium including background and travel information is available here.
Travelling to Mbombela/Nelspruit
Airport – Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport is located approximately 25 kilometres north east of Nelspruit, offering flights to Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg as well as internationally to Livingstone in Zambia and Vilankulos in Mozambique. Nelspruit Airport is the older airport, 6 kilometres from the city but doesn’t generally offer commercial flights.
Train – The Nelspruit railway station has regular trains west to Johannesburg via Middelburg, Witbank and Pretoria, and east to Komatipoort on the border with Mozambique.
Where to stay in Mbombela/Nelspruit
What to do in Mbombela/Nelspruit
- The proximity to the world famous Kruger National Park is perhaps the main reason for most tourist’s trip to Nelspruit, being just 40 kilometres away. Hundreds of wildlife roam the park, including lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants and buffalos with the opportunity to get up close to such animals making it one of the world’s greatest national parks.
- The Lowveld National Botanical Garden is just out of town and is charming place to walk among flowers, trees and a number of bird species.
- Chimpanzee Eden is the only such sanctuary in South Africa, home to chimpanzees that have been displaced from their natural habitats in Africa. You can see and learn about the chimps in a semi-wild setting.
Known as PE, Port Elizabeth offers some of South Africa’s cleanest beaches, an array of watersports and a historic hub.
Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium Venue Guide
The Lions return to the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium after playing the Southern Kings as part of the 2009 tour, winning 20-8. A full guide to visiting the impressive stadium including background and travel information is available here.
Travelling to Port Elizabeth
Airport – The Port Elizabeth Airport is the fourth busiest airport in South Africa but only dealing with domestic flights from Bloemfontein, Cape Town, Durban or Johannesburg. If flying internationally, you will have to transfer at Cape Town, Durban or Johannesburg.
Train – The Port Elizabeth railway station has daily intercity trains to Johannesburg and Bloemfontein, along with the Metrorail Eastern Cape commuter service.
Where to stay in Port Elizabeth
What to do in Port Elizabeth
- Port Elizabeth is a popular domestic and international holiday destination thanks to 40 kilometres of beach along Algoa Bay. Kings Beach, Hobie Beach and Humewood Beach all hold blue flag beach status, with Sardinia Bay perhaps the nicest of the lot approximately 20 kilometre south of downtown PE.
- The Donkin Heritage Trail is a 5 kilometre trail to commemorate the 1820 trek made by the settlers, passing through the Donkin Reserve with the memorial pyramid to Elizabeth Donkin who the city is named after. The reserve is also the start of Route 67, the city’s art and heritage trail.
- The Boardwalk entertainment complex is a leisure resort on an artificial lake, offering plenty of activities for the whole family along with shops, restaurants and cafes.
- The Kragga Kamma Game Park is less than 30 minutes away from PE, offering the chance to see African wildlife such as white rhinos, buffalo, zebras, cheetahs and giraffes.
- The Addo Elephant National Park is 70 kilometres north of PE and was opened in 1931 to protect the last 11 elephants that roamed the Eastern Cape. Today there are over 600 in South Africa’s third biggest national park.
17th July 2021 – Bulls v British and Irish Lions (Loftus Versfeld Stadium)
Pretoria is the administrative centre of South Africa and known as the Jacaranda City. Much more laid back than nearby Johannesburg, the city bursts with colour from the jacarandas in the spring time.
Loftus Versfeld Stadium Venue Guide
The Lions return to the Loftus Versfeld Stadium, having played the second test of the 2009 tour in which they dramatically lost 28-25 and ultimately lost the series. A full guide to visiting the historic stadium including background and travel information is available here.
Travelling to Pretoria
Air – The closest major airport is O. R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg – South Africa’s primary international and domestic airport, offering direct flights to destinations on all continents.
From the airport, the Gautrain runs to Pretoria in about 40 minutes, with a change at Marlboro. There are plans for there to be a direct service to Pretoria from the airport.
Train – Pretoria railway station is located in central Pretoria, sitting on the the Metrorail Gauteng, for services in and around the province along with long distance Shosholoza Meyl services from Johannesburg to Polokwane and Nelspruit.. The Gautrain links Park Station in Joahnnesburg with Pretoria, or indirectly with the airport as above.
Where to stay in Pretoria
What to do in Pretoria
- The Voortrekker Monument is one of the country’s most visited historic monuments, the 40 metre structure commemorates the journey of the Voortrekkers who trekked north into unknown territory in the mid 19th century.
- The Union Buildings are the government headquarters and was the site of Nelson Mandela’s inauguration in 1994, commemorated by a 9 metre statue among the gardens in the city’s highest point.
- The National Zoological Gardens of South Africa is a large zoo as well as offering the country’s only inland aquarium, with a cable car offering great views over the city.
British & Irish Lions/South Africa Squads
The British and Irish Lions touring squad, coached by Warren Gatland for the third time will be announced in April 2021.
British and Irish Lions – To be confirmed
South Africa – To be confirmed
How do I get tickets to the 2021 British & Irish Lions Tour?
For South Africa fans, a ballot will be held for all matches – registration is available on the official website.
For Lions fans, priority access tickets have already sold out. However it was confirmed in March 2020 that there will be a ticket ballot, sign up for updates on the official Lions website.
2021 British & Irish Lions Tour Schedule
It has been reported that the Lions will play a home Test match prior to departing for South Africa against Japan at Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh on the 26th June 2021, although this has not been confirmed as of yet.