By Mark Gleeson
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) -South Africa's test against Georgia, scheduled for Johannesburg on Friday, has been cancelled because of COVID-19 cases in both camps, SA Rugby said on Wednesday, placing their upcoming series against the British & Irish Lions under threat.
The match was supposed to be a warm-up for the world champions Springboks ahead of their three match series against the Lions, which is scheduled to start later this month.
"Following a review by the medical advisory group this morning, it was confirmed that the risk of further infection made it impossible to continue with the match," SA Rugby said in a statement.
The Springbok playing and support staff returned 12 positive tests for COVID-19 this week, while Georgia had four.
The cancellation follows Tuesday's decision to postpone the Lions tour match against the Bulls in Pretoria on Saturday after positive COVID-19 cases were also reported in the South African Currie Cup champions' camp.
But the Lions' second game of their tour on Wednesday against the Sharks in Johannesburg is still going ahead as SA Rugby hope to keep the tour going amid a third wave of novel coronavirus infections that have left South Africa with record numbers of new cases.
"We continue to plan for the Springboks' re-emergence from isolation and the completion of the test series (against the Lions)," said SA Rugby chief executive officer Jurie Roux.
"In the context of the loss of life and economic damage that COVID and this third wave are wreaking, the cancellation of a rugby match is pretty trivial. But it is still a major disappointment for the many stakeholders who have invested so much time, energy and resources into making these matches happen," Roux added.
"I especially feel for the fans and players, and for our visitors from Georgia who travelled here at relatively short notice to take on the series, which has now been cut short.
"We’ve not been able to interact with them because of the bio-secure environments, but I’d like to thank them publicly for their support."
Georgia were to play two tests to help the Boks prepare for the Lions series. South Africa beat them 40-9 in Pretoria last Friday in their first match back after 20 months since winning the 2019 World Cup.
The enlarged Springbok squad's travel plans are now being reviewed to comply with COVID-19 protocols, as the Lions series moves to Cape Town after Wednesday's match, the statement added.
(Writing by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Jon Boyle and Christian Radnedge)