Lions plotting contingencies as South African Covid cases threaten tour
The Lions are flying out to South Africa at 7pm this evening.
The 2021 British & Irish Lions Tour to South Africa finds itself in a state of perilous flux as a third wave of Covid-19 cases takes hold of the Rainbow Nation.
Three Springbok players have tested positive for Covid and the entire squad is heading into self-isolation in a bid to nip the issue in the bud.
3 positive Bok players are Sbu Nkosi, Vincent Koch and Herschel Jantjies
— Craig Ray (@craigray11) June 27, 2021
A statement from the South Africa Rugby Union [SARU] confirmed Sunday training was cancelled 'as a precautionary measure' when three of the squad returned positive test results for the virus. The statement reads:
'Three players tested positive for the virus following stringent real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing procedures on arrival at the team base.
'Team management immediately put the squad into self-isolation as a precaution until specialist medical advice is sought from the Castle Lager Lions Series Medical Advisory Group (MAG). A decision on further team activities will be made shortly.
'SA Rugby Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus emphasised that the team had followed all the necessary precautions since the start of the three-week conditioning camp hosted in Bloemfontein, which included mandatory Covid-19 testing three times a week, and that they would be led by specialist advice before any action is taken.'
The Lions squad, with Conor Murray in-situ as new tour captain, are flying to Johannesburg, as planned, this evening. They will be based there for their first week of the tour and play the Emirates Lions next Saturday evening in the city.
From there on out, the situation is unclear. Lions officials are urgently reviewing contingency plans before boarding that plane south.
Basing the entire Test Series in one stadium - as the IRFU did when the PRO14 returned, last year - is one possibility as it cuts down travel and enables a stronger bubble to be established.
Warm-up games may be under threat if the tour is shortened, and the possibility remains on the table of relocating the Test Series, at the least, to Europe, where the Covid situation is much better due to a wide vaccine roll-out in countries such as England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland.
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