The British & Irish Lions’ tour of South Africa was plunged into further chaos after the game against the Bulls on Saturday was postponed and the Springboks contracted 11 more Covid cases – including head coach, Jack Nienaber – raising further concerns about the Test series.
On Tuesday it emerged that the Bulls had recorded five positive cases, and given close contacts, it was decided that the game in Pretoria on Saturday could not continue. The Lions were scrambling Tuesday night to find a different opponent, while the Bulls’ game could have been rearranged, but the postponement was a major upset for the tour.
Meanwhile, South Africa has seen a rise in Covid cases, while their opponents on Friday evening, Georgia, recorded four cases. This match hasn’t been canceled yet, but it’s hanging by a thread, which makes it likely that the Springboks are undercooked for the test series. Doubts remain over whether the world champion will be able to face the Lions, however, with the series set to begin on July 24.
The 46-man South African team was placed in isolation on Monday after the Lood de Jager’s test results for the second row of Sale Sharks came back positive. The hope was that the outbreak would be contained, as was the case last week, but four other players — Marvin Urey, France Stein, Hendry Bullard and France Malherbe — six staff members, including Nyabber and a masseuse, tested positive on Tuesday. .
“These positive results are a setback and have underscored the risk of a delta version transmission,” said Jory Roe, SA’s chief executive of rugby. “Springboks’ second test against Georgia is now in serious doubt, but we’ll wait [medical advisory group] To look into the data and we will make the final decision [on Wednesday]. The priority is to maintain the integrity of the test chain and we will continue to focus on that. “
The Lions have not yet reported a positive case and the game against the Sharks will continue on Wednesday as planned in Johannesburg. The team was due to head to Cape Town after the game against the Blues for matches against the South African A-team next Wednesday, the Stormers the following Saturday and the first Test a week later. The current schedule has since then returned the lions to Johannesburg – which is in South Africa’s hard-hit Gauteng region – for the second two tests but talks have been held about staying in Cape Town for the duration of the tour.
If the Lions cannot hastily rearrange another game on Saturday, it will be a huge blow to Gatland as he will have less chance of getting a look at his players than planned. Concerns are already growing that lions will be ill-prepared given the relative weakness of the county sides, who cannot pick their own springboks.
The outbreak in the Georgia camp is significant in that sense because without it, Lilos would have looked like a candidate to replace the Bulls and face the Lions on Saturday, assuming Friday’s game was off. That’s still a possibility, though unlikely, if the outbreak is contained in Georgia’s lineup.
Speaking before the Bulls game was officially postponed, Lions defensive coach Steve Tandy said: “You can have the best plans laid out but things move really fast and things can change quickly. It’s just being prepared for whatever comes our way in any given period of time. We will adapt to We advanced.”
Meanwhile, the situation looks miserable for South Africa. The win against Georgia last Friday was their first test in more than 600 days – since they beat England in the World Cup final – and it seems unlikely that they will play again before the Test series against the Lions begins.
Tom Curry, who made his Lions Tour debut on Wednesday, said: “Everyone talks about how big it is for the Lions but for the South African players, what is it once every 12 years? It’s a huge occasion so there’s a lot of understanding for them. It’s not people’s fault if they get Covid. So, yes, they are great understanding of them.”