The schedule for the British and Irish Lions 2021 tour of South Africa has been announced.
Managed for the third successive time by Warren Gatland, the tour will comprise eight matches, including three tests, and will run from July 3rd until August 7th.
It will kick-off in Cape Town with a game against Stormers just a week after the Aviva Premiership final.
It is hoped that, like the PRO14, the Premiership might be prepared to move the date of its title decider forward by a week to allow more preparation time for Gatland and his squad, although there are no indications to this effect as yet.
Gatland has previously stated that he would ideally like to play a warm-up game, possibly on June 26th against a Barbarians side, prior to departure for the five-week tour.
Two of the three tests will be held at altitude in Johannesburg, with the third set for Cape Town.
In addition to the three tests against the world champions, the tour will also include games against three Super Rugby teams - Stormers, Sharks and Bulls - plus South Africa A and a South African invitational team.
IN addition to Johannesburg and Cape Town, other cities to feature a Lions match on the tour will be Durban, Port Elizabeth, Nelspruit and Pretoria.
Commenting on the schedule, Gatland said: "I am absolutely thrilled with how this schedule looks.
"Touring South Africa is always a huge challenge, not only from a rugby perspective, but also in terms of the venues and the conditions facing the players.
"We are very comfortable that three of the games, two of which are test matches, will be played at altitude. Our schedule falls in a way to allow us to start at sea level before building up and acclimatising to the unique environment that playing at altitude presents.
"Ensuring the team are absolutely primed for the test matches is a critical element of any Lions tour, and I am confident the quality of opposition we will face in the opening weeks will get us ready to take on the Springboks.
"The Bulls, Sharks and Stormers are all tough sides and present different challenges, which is exactly what we want."
South Africa head coach Rassie Erasmus added: "They (Lions tours) only come around every 12 years for our players, and only a few of them ever have the privilege of wearing the Springbok jersey in a Lions series.
"The Lions have not lost a series since they were last here a decade ago, and they will present a next-level challenge in 18 months' time.
"Warren Gatland is a massively experienced and astute coach with a phenomenal record with the Lions, and the rugby experience for our players and public will rival that of a Rugby World Cup.
"They (Lions) will operate like a well-oiled machine, and we will have to work very hard to match them in every department, on and off the field."
2021 Lions tour schedule: July 3 - Stormers (Cape Town),July 7 - South Africa 'Invitational' - Port Elizabeth, July 10 - Sharks (Durban), July 14 - South Africa A (Nelspruit), July 17 - Bulls (Pretoria), July 24 - South Africa (Johannesburg), July 31 - South Africa (Cape Town), August 7 - South Africa (Johannesburg).