British and Irish Lions tour match off due to Covid-19

The British and Irish Lions have lost a first match to coronavirus after Saturday’s clash with the Bulls was postponed because of an outbreak in the South African province’s team.

British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland (Picture: PA)
British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland (Picture: PA)

And in a further setback that calls into question the ongoing viability of the tour, an additional 10 positive Tests by players and management in the Springbok camp have thrown their Test against Georgia on Friday into grave doubt.

Complicating the hopes of the second of South Africa’s warm-up games taking place at Emirates Airline Park is that Georgia have also also been affected, producing four confirmed cases of Covid. However, the game has not been cancelled yet. Only the Lions have managed to escape the virus as the Gauteng region that encompasses Johannesburg and Pretoria finds itself in the grip of an escalating third wave of the pandemic.

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But the tourists’ schedule now faces revision with two options under consideration – fixing a new date for the Bulls game or finding alternative opposition to fill the gap created on Saturday.

It became impossible for the match to proceed after the Pretoria-based franchise saw four players and one member of management test positive. Once close contacts were factored in, it became apparent they would be unable to field a team.

The vital task facing tour organisers is to ensure the Test series between the Lions and South Africa takes place, with the first meeting due to be held in Cape Town on July 24. “These positive results are a setback and have underlined the danger of transmissibility of the delta variant,” said SA Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux.

“The Springboks’ second Test against Georgia is now in serious doubt, but we will wait for the Medical Advisory Group to consider the data and we will make the final decision tomorrow (Wednesday).

“The priority is to maintain the integrity of the Test series and we will continue to focus on that.”

South Africa placed their entire 46-man squad into isolation on Monday after lock Lood De Jager produced a positive, and a subsequent round of testing revealed the scale of the problem.

Second row Marvin Orie, centre Frans Steyn, fly-half Handre Pollard and prop Frans Malherbe now face 10 days of quarantine.