KEEP up to date with everything happening on the behind-closed-doors 2021 Lions series with SunSport's tour diary.
Our man Jonny Fordham is out in South Africa as Warren Gatland's side take on the fearsome reigning world champions.
RANTING Rassie Erasmus whinged about the Lions' side entry at rucks last week.
Well it turns out that the salty South Africa boss also struggles to find the right way in.
Erasmus drove himself to Saturday's Second Test win in Cape Town. . . but even he couldn't find the right entrance.
Security guards had to ask him to reverse his giant Land Rover to get into Cape Town Stadium as he arrived just an hour before kick-off.
DAY TWENTY EIGHT
IT'S the news that music groupies were dreading. . . Scrum and Base are no more.
The Lions DJ super-act of Tom Curry and Tadhg Furlong have been ousted from the decks by Navicii - aka Josh Navidi.
Curry told the diary: "To be fair, it has been on the back burner for a while, I'm not going to lie.
"It was a sharp peak and a sharp decline. Navicii has taken over and he is very, very good.
"We have not had many requests from inside the camp. It's kind of been put on the back burner for a while now.
"Navicii did a set a few weeks ago and it was very good. So that kind of set the stall out for Tadhg and mine's decline.
"The merch is still going, though."
DAY TWENTY SEVEN
OKAY, this was a good one.
Fair play to the hack who logged onto Warren Gatland's Second Test team announcement as "Jaco Johan".
Just hours earlier, Rassie Erasmus denied he was the puppet master behind the suspicious Twitter account spreading anti-Lions material.
DAY TWENTY SIX
AND STILL the fall-out continues.
From Rassie Erasmus' 'fake' Twitter burner account to continued crying on social media.
Funny, if not very, very weird at first, to totally desperate and sad by the end of the day.
DAY TWENTY FIVE
SOUTH AFRICAN journalists are having a meltdown on Twitter.
Any sense of impartiality is out the window. Sack Marius Jonker, the Springbok TMO, roars one.
Australian referee Nic Berry was biased, roars another.
They've gone so one-eyed that they might as well come to the next game dressed as Springboks.
DAY TWENTY FOUR
THERE should be 30,000 Lions fans here for this epic South Africa series.
Or do we make that 29,999?
Well done to lone Lion Paul, from Bolton, who lives in Cape Town and had tickets to the First Test.
Because of Covid, Paul and wife Helen, a Springboks fan, both had to get refunds for their dream tickets.
But that didn't stop the locals heading down to Cape Town Stadium to cheer both the Lions and Boks on as they arrived at the empty venue.
DAY TWENTY THREE
STUART HOGG has been picked to diffuse South Africa's high bombs.
Just don't ask the Scotland skipper to make you a coffee, though.
Semi-pro barista boy Elliot Daly has made more than 150 cuppas in camp to keep the Lions sharp.
But Hogg is lagging behind his buddy in the backs.
Daly revealed: "Who is the worst? Stuart Hogg. He is going to hate that, so please print it."
No worries, Elliot, and ours is a double macchiato.
DAY TWENTY TWO
THIS stage of a Lions series is usually when players go "off tour".
Warren Gatland has picked his Test side and those guys not in it will most-likely have to hold tackle bags for the next three weeks.
A ban on the sale of booze, a 9pm curfew and strict bubble rules in South Africa will ensure the dirt-trackers can't get up to too much trouble, though.
And Gatland admitted: "I’m incredibly impressed with how tight these guys are. We’re just trying to make sure we get a balance right.
"We said to the non-23 on Friday night that if they wanted to have a few drinks then they were able to do that.
"They went and had a couple of drinks and put a 12pm curfew on themselves.
"That’s good for them. It’s important for them to get together and have a bit of solidarity. It’s tough.
"It’s the end of such a long tour and the biggest challenge is keeping everyone focussed.
"I said to the guys not in the 23 that they’re only an injury away or a performance away from being involved.
"In the past, possibly when it comes to Test week, you probably get two or three whose tour is over and they probably haven’t had the same sort of focus.
"Going back to the UK and Ireland and saying they were part of a winning Lions Test series.
"Not everyone can be selected, but everyone can be proud of that fact."
DAY TWENTY ONE
A WEEK ago Durban was rocked by deadly rioting and looting that destroyed the communities and livelihoods of thousands.
As SunSport left KwaZulu-Natal last week, we bypassed vigilantes on the streets armed with assault rifles, shotguns and pistols to protect their homes.
A giant chemical factory was burning to the ground and the rancid stench in the air filled your lungs.
Shopping malls and supermarkets were ransacked and the clean-up operation had yet to begin.
But now it has and the Lions' rivals, The Sharks, are digging deep to help out.
The club's backers have already pledged 1 million Rand (£50,000) to a fund.
And with the help of the Siya Kolisi Foundation and Tendai Mtawarira's Beast Foundation they are rebuilding the city.
The Sharks are showing the true effect of sport - helping people get food and recover from the devastating civil unrest.
Chief exec Ed Coetzee said: "We will get through this. Please contact us and where possible, we will help.
"We are standing strong in our community, we are positive and we will take things forward.
"There is nothing apologetic about South Africa or our people."
YOU would not want to make 6ft 7ins giant Courtney Lawes angry.
Warren Gatland tried the Lions lock by telling him he was sending him home last week!
Lawes went to see the gaffer to find out why he didn't play on Saturday - and he was told to pack his bags before Gatland burst out laughing!
And Lawes is now plotting revenge. . . but will wait until the three match Test series is over.
He said: “I might wait until the tour is finished, but I will be trying to get him back, yeah.
“It was obviously a tongue-in-cheek joke. I was like: ‘You’re joking, right?’
"It was obviously a joke, but I was like: ‘Don’t say that!'
BOOZE sponsors Castle Lager have had a tough series with a total ban on alcohol sales in South Africa.
But the Lions' shirt sponsors have done a bit more than just slapping their logo on the chest of Maro Itoje and co.
Warren Gatland's stars have been using what Vodafone call PLAYER.Connect.
It is essentially a super-computer app, designed to track the tourists every movement on and off the pitch to make sure the players are at peak performance to smash South Africa.
Sounds a bit too much like Big Brother?
Well, all elite-level sports teams do it, but the Lions have taken things to the next level with 24/7 live analysis.
The Lions have been wearing WHOOP straps to monitor sleep and measure recovery and all of this data, plus their GPS and daily wellbeing surveys are then pooled into the new system.
Bobby Stridgeon, the Lions' head of strength and conditioning said: The Vodafone PLAYER.Connect platform is a step forward in performance monitoring.
"Vodafone’s innovation is supporting our aim to achieve consistently high levels of performance.
"The dashboard lets us maximise the output of our current monitoring, and is helping us provide detailed analysis of all wellness, training and match data throughout the 2021 Tour.
"We are already starting to see the benefits, and are confident that using this platform will support our ambition to beat the Springboks.”
IT'S though finding clothes that fit you when you're a giant, 20 stone prop.
So spare a thought for poor old Mako Vunipola.
The Lions loosehead went to swap shirts with his Stormers opposition after Saturday's thumping win in Cape Town.
But he then struggled to get his new threads on - much to the amusement of teammate Tadhg Furlong.
Nice crop-top, though, Mako!
WARREN GATLAND'S Lions will each trouser £60,000 for playing on this tour.
But England lock Courtney Lawes is already a little lighter in the pocket after splashing out for missing his fifth wedding anniversary.
Lawes wrote in his Daily Telegraph column: "Jess has been working extremely hard, looking after our children back home, so I knew I had to make a big effort.
"It was not a lastminute thing, I spent quite a bit of time choosing some holiday gifts from Harrods for her.
"This one needed effort and expense. I just hope she likes them - but I am backing myself!"
KEN OWENS is becoming a diary favourite.
After bringing his wife on tour and getting fined (see Day Eleven) the Welsh hooker has had a tough time off the pitch.
So to take his mind off the ribbing from his teammates Owens has been playing Candy Crush.
And when asked if he was any good, he said: "I was about no.1 in the UK!"
Owens then went on to reveal that his nemesis was only another rugby player!
He added: "I’ve dropped down the rankings recently.
"Bundee Aki and I got talking, and the winger who is at Bristol, he’s no 1 in the world - Niyi Adeaolokun - so he’s actually above the levels I’m on.
"I've got a bit of work to do to track him down. I was a bit gutted with that. I got back into my box.
"He was no.1 in the world, he’s on about level 9,500 and I’m just coming up to 5,000 - so I'm a bit disappointed.
"I’ve got a bit of work to do."
POOR old Louis Rees-Zammit has clearly lost a bet.
The down-to-earth 20-year-old has a new haircut that raised a few eyebrows in Cape Town.
Speedster winger Zammo, also known as Rees-Lightning, now has this beauty shaved into the back of his head.
Let's hope that Lightning only strikes twice on the pitch!
ALI PRICE is clearly an old romantic.
But the Scotland scrum-half might not live down his candid confession about his guilty pleasure.
He revealed that his go-to box set wasn't the typical choice for a rugby star.
Price said: "I smashed this out in a couple of weeks before I came out. . . Married at First Sight Australia!
"If you've not watched it, you need to give it a crack - it's an emotional rollercoaster!"
IT NEVER rains. . . but it pours.
The Lions didn't see a drop of water during their first two weeks in Johannesburg.
So of course it absolutely chucked it down on day one in Hermanus.
Fitness coach Bobby Stridgeon, aka Flipper, was first to dive in and lead the way for centre Bundee Aki who also went surfing as the rest of the squad watched.
DAN BIGGAR and Liam Williams might need to find themselves a new money-spinner in camp.
The Welsh duo have been sharking money out of Anthony Watson and Tadhg Beirne at Gin Rummy.
But now games have been forced outside, with visors and potentially lasting less then 15 minutes - the pair might be up against it if they are to add to their current 2,000 Rand (£100) winnings.
FINN RUSSELL couldn't resist winding-up his English teammates over the Euro 2020 final.
Owen Farrell, Jamie George and Tom Curry all filmed a video to support their counterparts back home before Sunday night's Wembley defeat to Italy.
Only for Scot Russell to crash the party. Check it out, but maybe don't if you're. three Lions fan.
BRINGING your partner on tour is never going to end well - just ask Ken Owens!
The Lions hooker's wife, Carys, is the boss of the production company filming the behind-the-scenes footage with the tourists.
And Owens revealed: "I’m bringing my wife to work, so I’ve been fined already.
"It will be a roll of the dice, we’ll leave it til midway through the tour to have a bit of fund with that.
"Carys is out here with working with comms and social media team on all the behind the scenes stuff.
"I don’t actually see her too much - she’s pretty busy to be fair with 13 or 14 hour days.
"The crew have got a pretty busy schedule so our paths don’t cross too much, unless I have some commercial work to do.
"I’m used to it, too, she’s done it within the WRU as well.
"Though some the banter that got thrown at me three or four years ago, when she first started with the WRU, has reared its head again.
"So the boys are enjoying that and I had the fine before even coming on tour."
THE LIONS' Covid measures are next level.
And as well as the usual wearing of face-masks and use of hand sanitiser, they also have extra ways in trying to stop the spread of the virus.
At meal times, all players and staff have to use tiny little plastic bags to pick up plates and cutlery.
BUBBLE AND STRIFE
WHEN the Lions arrive in Hermanus on Sunday, their new hotel will have already been completely decontaminated.
Even the hotel staff have been living in the Arabella resort - an hour and a half outside Cape Town - for the last few days.
Lions Managing director Ben Calveley told the diary: "We move down to the hotel in Cape Town on Sunday and all of the staff down there have been embedded in that hotel for a period of time.
"So they don’t come in at the same time as we come in from the general population, they go in a number of days in advance, they’re then tested on multiple occasions before we arrive.
"If any of them are positive, and we hope they wouldn’t be, but if any of them are positive they’re weeded out before we get there.
"So by the time we arrive we’ve got a population of hotel staff that have been repeatedly tested negative so there should be low risk.
"The hotel staff don’t go home in the evenings. They live on site. And there are very few hotel staff."
ANTHONY WATSON knows it's coming home.
The Lions winger has been playing PlayStation with his best mate and Three Lions centre-back Tyrone Mings whilst they are both in camp.
And when asked the golden question, Three Lions fan Watson said: "YES - it is coming home!
"I've been watching the football and trying to stay in contact with Tyrone as much as possible.
"It's been hard when he is in camp, but he is another guy that I play PlayStation with.
"So whenever we do that, I catch up with him too and see how he is doing.
"I'm gutted he has not been involved in the last few games and he hasn't been on the pitch, but the team is doing well and that is the most important thing.
"So he is buzzing and hopefully they can go all the way. There is all the stuff with England, having not down well since '66 - but you can't compare the two.
"And with a summer of sport ahead, if England did well in the Euros and we did well in the series, and the Olympics - it would be great domino effect."
SO MANY potential quiz questions from last night's game in year's to come.
But possibly the toughest will be. . . Who wore the no.10 jersey in the Lions' win over The Sharks?
Dan Biggar? Nope - he was in Covid quarantine. Finn Russell? On the bench.
Well then it must be Owen Farrell? Wrong again. Stuart Hogg, then?! No.
Because after all the chaos when FOURTEEN of the squad had to self isolate following a Covid outbreak, the kit was all over the place.
It was in fact flying winger, and traditional no.14, Louis Rees-Zammit who was wearing the no.10 shirt.
And starting fly-half Farrell. . . his famous red jersey had NO number at all.
LIONS stars have hit the gin on tour already.
No, not booze of course with South Africa slapping a prohibition on the sale of alcohol, but Gin Rummy.
A card school has been formed, but Anthony Watson has suffered badly and is already 2,000 Rand down (£100)
Watson revealed: “We have been playing a lot of cards and we have been getting hustled by the Welsh boys who have got some pretty funny rules.
“Myself and Tadhg Beirne have been getting ‘finessed’ so we had had to pay a bit of money to those guys.
"I have had to pay up around £100. I am looking to get it all back.
"Dan Biggar is pretty good and I have to say through gritted teeth Liam Williams as well.
"But as I say it is the rules, I said, it's the rules. They've put their rules in place to suit them.
"And they've hustled us all so we'll look to change and get our money back.”
JOSH NAVIDI - aka Navicii - has been teaching Tom Curry and Tadhg Furlong how to spin the decks.
Curry said: “We are coming along nicely, Navicii is our mentor.
"He’s a part-time DJ. . . it’s Navidi. . . so now Avicii!
JAY-Z and DJ Khaled's backed rugby club the Sharks is more than sport's coolest club with swimming pools, waterslides and a beach bar.
The Sharks are also helping hard-up Durbanites get a start in life.
Because chief exec Ed Coetzee has created a hub for unemployed people to kick-start their dreams.
The business hub, just around the corner from the boardroom at Kings Park Stadium, has desks, meeting rooms and telephone booths for people to come and use - free of charge.
WORLD CUP winners South Africa won't be able to show off their Webb Ellis Cup trophy this summer.
The Springboks' first game since bringing the golden trophy home was just last week against Georgia.
But when they come to face the Lions in their Test series later this month they are not allowed to display their trophy in the stadiums because of red tape denying them the opportunity to do so.
Instead, the golden pot is locked away in a Cape Town safe for now.
SPORTS fans back home are starting to return to normal life.
But a Lions tour with no fans is still taking some getting used to as there would have been 30,000-plus punters partying in South Africa.
So the squad are trying to tap into the support of the Red Army back home.
After the first game against the Sigma Lions, they had a virtual capping ceremony on Zoom.
Sam Simmonds revealed: “For all the boys that were making their debuts it was nice to get the cap and the Lions number.
"It was streamed for the families, which was great so they could watch it with us.
"It was a very proud moment for us, but also for the families who have seen us working towards this goal.
“So it was nice for us and it was nice for them to be able to see us after and speak to them and hear how proud they were, which was great."
The players also haven't been to swap shirts or have a beer after games with their rivals - such is another great Lions tradition.
Simmonds added: "We couldn’t go into the changing rooms.
"If you want to swap shirts, you take yours off and give it to one of the team managers.
"They would go in and swap it. It is a little bit different.
“But it was nice to get a shirt with all the writing down the left-hand side. Your Lions number will go on there and the games. It is all part of it."
FANS watching the Lions' opening game on TV were frustrated by the dodgy virtual branding slapped on to their screens.
Due to a shut-out of supporters, organisers of this Lions series have decided to use digital technology to bring stadiums to life.
And it's gone down badly.
Then during South Africa's match in Pretoria on Friday night, the effects were made to look even more shambolic as photographers in the stands kept popping up in the pictures!
It wasn't their fault, though, the poor old snappers aren't allowed near the pitch like they usually would because of ultra-strict Covid regulations.
ANOTHER complaint of the Lions' first match on Saffa soil from fans was the lack of atmosphere on TV.
But in fairness, the hosts did a good job of drumming up some noise and creating a bit of an event out of it, with DJs next to the pitch playing music during breaks of play.
They even announced mulleted debut score, Hamish Watson, as: "The guy with the hair, haha!"
Though you couldn't help feel sorry for the iconic and giant concrete jungle of Ellis Park on the way to the ground.
Usually the streets in this part of Johannesburg are packed with fans eating at braais and locals selling flags and shirts from the roadside.
JOSH ADAMS wasn't the only one flying on Saturday night.
Ellis Park's native flock of African swifts made their presence known on Saturday night.
The tiny little black birds, who nest in the nooks and crannies of the concrete jungle, spent the evening dive-bombing the pitch and whizzing in and out of the posts at either end.
BRAVE SunSport used their diplomatic skills and worldly contacts to charm the cops on a curfew-busting trip from Pretoria to Johannesburg.
This tour's only two intrepid reporters, and rugby's most-respected photographer, were on their way back from covering South Africa in their first game in more than 600 days.
But, after president Cyril Ramaphosa slapped a 9pm shut-out on the WHOLE country, it took a bit of skill to navigate our way home and past a ring of steel.
Within sight of our Johannesburg hotel, we thought we had made it safe and sound.
Only to be surprised by a score of cops pulling over drivers and blocking the road.
Luckily, SunSport had all the necessary paperwork, security clearance and diplomacy to convince the cops to move their roadblock to get us home.
Yet again, it's The Sun wot won it.
AN ANGLO-IRISH bromance is developing in the Lions squad.
And let's just hope that Tom Curry has let his 'Kamikaze twin' Sam Underhill down nicely.
Because England ace Curry and Ireland prop Tadhg Furlong are the new best buddies in Warren Gatland's squad.
When asked about any new rugby friends, Courtney Lawes said: “Tadhg Furlong and Tom Curry actually.
“They’re getting on far better than I anticipated. They’re really spending some time together. A match made in heaven!”
OH NOSE YOU DON'T!
SPARE a thought for the South Africans working at every Lions and Springboks match this summer.
Luckily, with most of the foreign press being double-vaccinated from Covid, we only need a negative antigen swab test done by a gentle tickle of the hooter.
The locals, however, were left in tears by a much more forceful PCR test as they got kebab skewered by medics at Loftus Versfeld on Friday night.
Each poor victim was left crying their eyes out after the nasal stick invasion.
But don't worry, after having the back of their skulls scraped, their mates were just as sympathetic as they cried tears of laughter in solidarity!
BOOZE is on prohibition in South Africa right now with a ban across all alcohol sales.
So it's all gone a bit 'Dry another Day' in camp.
The strict anti-Covid measures will last until at least a week on Sunday.
And Lions lock Jonny Hill, a guy who produces his own cider (aptly named Rib Tickler for a rugby player) has been barred from bringing in any of his own produce to share with his team-mates.
On brand like a modern-day, corporate Lions machine the Exeter Chiefs lock said: "With a lot of our sponsors and stuff, Castle Lager, Famous Grouse, Chase Distilleries. . . I can't really be doing that sort of thing unfortunately!"
AS WE KNOW, the Lions have plenty of official sponsors and commercial partners to help bring in the millions of pounds needed to stage a tour.
However, the ONE deal they need to get on is an official suncream supplier.
Skipper Stuart Hogg and boss Warren Gatland looked as red as their shirts as they delivered their press conference before the opening tour match against the Sigma Lions.
YORKSHIRE folk get everywhere.
No sooner had SunSport checked into our Johannesburg hotel did we bump into former Leeds United, Sheffield Wednesday and Reading left-back Dylan Kerr.
Now a successful manager abroad, Kerr, who was doing punditry for SuperSport, has just won the equivalent of the FA Cup in South Africa with Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila.
He also saved TTM from relegation - the third time he has kept a club up over here. Talk about the magic touch.
BACK in 2009 Johannesburg's Sandton City mall was a major boozing base for Lions and Boks fans.
But with the city slapped into level four Covid restrictions, the only support from either side has been totally plastic.
Only a few mannequins with kit on in sports shop windows have been spotted showing their colours so far.
All eight of the tour games - plus the Springboks' two-Test series against Georgia, which starts on Friday night - will be without crowds.
Journalists covering the tour even need to get special security permits to be out of their hotels to cover games after president Cyril Ramaphosa ordered a 9pm curfew on the whole country.
LIONS fever has gripped Johannesburg's taxi drivers.
Well, er, not Warren Gatland's Lions, but Gareth Southgate's Three Lions.
Joburg's cabbies were desperate to chat about England's win over Germany.
But down in the southern hemisphere, they reckon the Euro's ain't coming home and were backing Belgium or Italy to lift the crown.
CONOR MURRAY has told his Lions team-mates to stop treating him like a Diva!
The new captain, who was a shock pick to take over from injured Alun Wyn Jones, is already being treated like royalty by his team-mates.
And the down-to-earth scrum-half has already had enough.
Asked if he was being given any special treatment from the rest of the squad, the 32-year-old said: "They do unfortunately.
"They don't call me by name anymore, it's 'Skips', now, so I'm trying to get rid of that one.
"Obviously on Saturday with Al and Tips losing out through injury, once Warren said I was to be taking over everyone came over and said congrats and you could feel that they meant it.
"It's great to have that support from your fellow players and that's the most important thing.
"Everyone is digging in, it's getting serious so everyone is working really hard now and, as I say, there's a really good vibe in camp."