Monday, November 29

Lions turn amid turmoil as Bulls game is canceled and Covid hit Springboks British and Irish Lions

The British & Irish Lions’ tour of South Africa has been further thrown into chaos after Saturday’s game against the Bulls was postponed and the Springboks suffered 11 other cases of Covid, including head coach Jacques Nienaber, who which raised further fears about the test. Serie.

It emerged on Tuesday that the Bulls had registered five positive cases and, taking into account close contacts, it was determined that Saturday’s game in Pretoria could not go ahead. The Lions were scrambling Tuesday night to find a different opponent, while the Bulls’ game could still shake up, but the postponement is a major disruption to the tour.

Meanwhile, South Africa has seen an increase in Covid cases, while its opponents on Friday night, Georgia, have recorded four. That match is yet to be called off, but it’s hanging by a thread, making the Springboks likely undercooked for the test series. However, questions remain as to whether the world champions will be able to face the Lions, as the series begins on July 24.

On Monday, the entire 46-man team from South Africa was isolated after Lood de Jager, from the second row of the Sale Sharks, tested positive. The hope was that the outbreak would be contained, as it did last week, but four more players, Marvin Orie, Frans Steyn, Handré Pollard and Frans Malherbe, six staff members, including Nienaber, and a masseur tested positive Tuesday. .

“These positive results are a setback and have underscored the transmissibility danger of the Delta variant,” said SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux. “The Springboks’ second Test against Georgia is now in serious doubt, but we will wait for the [medical advisory group] consider the data and we will make the final decision [on Wednesday]. The priority is maintaining the integrity of the test suite and we will continue to focus on that. “

South Africa Head Coach Jacques Nienaber
South Africa’s head coach Jacques Nienaber is among 11 Covid positives at Springbok camp. Photograph: Steve Haag / PA

The Lions have yet to register a positive case and Wednesday’s game against the Sharks will continue as scheduled in Johannesburg. The team was due to head to Cape Town after the game against the Blues for matches against an A-team from South Africa next Wednesday, the Stormers the following Saturday and the first test a week later. The current schedule sees the Lions return to Johannesburg, which is in the Gauteng region, badly affected by the third wave of Covid from South Africa, for the second two tests, but talks have been held to remain in Cape Town during the tour. .

If the Lions can’t hastily rearrange another game on Saturday, it would be a significant blow to Gatland because he would be less likely to catch a glimpse of his players than planned. Fears are growing that the Lions are unprepared due to the relative weakness of provincial teams, who are unable to select their Springboks.

The outbreak in Georgia’s camp is significant in that regard because without it, the Lelos would have appeared to be candidates to take the place of the Bulls and face the Lions on Saturday, assuming Friday’s game is free. That remains a possibility, albeit unlikely, if the outbreak is contained in Georgia’s squad.

Speaking before the Bulls game was officially postponed, Lions defense coach Steve Tandy said: “You could have the best plans, but things move very fast and things can change quickly. It is simply being prepared for whatever comes our way in any period of time. We will just adapt as we go along. “

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For South Africa, meanwhile, the situation looks dire. The victory against Georgia last Friday was their first test in more than 600 days, since defeating 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 makes his first appearance on the Lions tour on Wednesday, said: “Everybody talks about how great it is for the Lions, but for South African players, what is once every 12 years? a great occasion for them, so there is a massive understanding for them. It’s not people’s fault if they catch Covid. So yeah, great understanding for them. “

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