Rugby-Lions look to play down COVID-19 crisis in South Africa

·2-min read

By Mark Gleeson

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - The British & Irish Lions attempted to play down the possible effects of a growing COVID-19 crisis in South African rugby as the Springboks self-isolate and local media reported several positive cases at Saturday’s opponents, the Bulls.

The Lions play the Sharks in their second tour match in Johannesburg on Wednesday and the Bulls in Pretoria on Saturday, but that game could be called off after South African broadcaster SuperSport reported that several Bulls players had tested positive on Monday.

There has also been an outbreak in the Springbok camp which threatens their warm-up test against Georgia in Johannesburg on Friday.

"There is a lot of speculation around," Lions assistant coach Steve Tandy told a news conference. "But it’s not affected the mood in the camp. We trained this morning and are gearing up for tomorrow night.

"The focus is on us getting better, improving and building on the last couple of performances."

Tandy said the threat of a COVID-19 infection was never far from the top of their agenda.

"It is something we are constantly reminding about and trying to take no risks around what we are doing. No one wants to jeopardise this tour in any way, shape or form. We have come here to do a job and don’t want anything to get the way of that," he added.

The Lions are tested up to four times a week and staying in a bio-secure hotel complex in Johannesburg where they are the only guests.

Asked if there were contingency plans if one of their tour fixtures was postponed, Tandy added: "It will depend on what point of the tour we are at. Maybe we weigh up that we need an extra recovery day and give the boys time off or maybe we feel we need an internal match, or maybe a heavily loaded training session."

The Lions play five matches before the first test against the world champions in Cape Town on July 24. They played a warm-up game against Japan in Edinburgh before leaving for South Africa and kicked off the tour with a 56-14 win over the Lions in Johannesburg on Saturday.

(Editing by Ed Osmond)

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