It will be futile to continue with the British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa later this year if no spectators are allowed to attend the matches, legendary former Springbok captain Wynand Claassen believes.
SA Rugby will make a decision on the tour – scheduled for July and August – in the next few weeks.
“A Lions tour is so unique because it only happens in this country every 12 years,” said Claassen. “And, it is the Lions fans, who travel around with the squad and attend the games in their red-cladded jerseys, that make it such a special event.
“If fans can’t attend, then the tour must rather be postponed.”
Claassen played three games against the 1980 Lions captained by Bill Beaumont – for Natal, the Junior Springboks and the SA XV.
“I remember the packed stadiums and the great atmosphere … without the fans you would lose the uniqueness of the whole tour,” said Claassen.
The tour is scheduled to start on 3 July with a match against the Stormers at the Cape Town Stadium while the three Tests are set to take place at the FNB Stadium, Cape Town Stadium and Ellis Park on 24 July, 31 July and 7 August respectively.
Furthermore, Claassen said he agreed with former Lions captain Willie-John McBride and former Bok lock Kobus Wiese that to move the tour to Australia or the United Kingdom is not an option.
McBride was the captain of the unbeaten Lions of 1974, while Wiese played against the Lions of 1997 with the tourists winning the series 2-1.
“It is really a ridiculous idea … the Aussies’ offer to host the tour is simply a plan to boost their own hospitality business,” said Claassen.
“SA Rugby needs this tour because of the incredible income it will generate, but obviously the government’s decision on whether fans will be allowed to attend the matches remains a contentious issue.”