Lions to play internationals in Super absence
South Africa's relegated Lions have lined up games against Russia and Samoa and French and US rugby clubs next season ahead of their attempt to win back a place in Super rugby.
In a 16-game schedule released, the Johannesburg-based team will also play French Top 14 teams Agen, Montpellier, Grenoble and Mont-de-Marsan and go on a three-match tour of the United States and Canada - with two games against a US Invitational side and one against Chicago Lions.
The Lions open their season against Russia at home at Ellis Park on January 19. The 2011 Currie Cup champions play Namibia away on February 23 and Samoa at home on June 1.
As well as the four French clubs, the Lions also have a game against the French Barbarians on June 8. They play the US Invitational team on successive weekends in mid-April in California and Vancouver, before going to Chicago.
The Lions were relegated from Super rugby by the South African Rugby Union this year after finishing last, and replaced with Port Elizabeth's Southern Kings. They can reclaim their Super rugby status in a two-leg promotion-relegation playoff against the lowest-finishing South African team in July and August.
There were also five fixtures planned against local rivals and current South African Super rugby teams the Cheetahs, Bulls, Stormers, Sharks and Southern Kings.
The Lions and Bulls will meet on February 2 at Soweto's Orlando Stadium, the venue where the Bulls won the Super rugby title in 2010 in the first rugby game played in the township.
The Lions still play in the Currie Cup, but their Super rugby relegation initially left them with no rugby until the domestic competition kicked off next August.