Rassie Erasmus begging to add another SA ’A’ fixture to Lions tour itinerary
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CAPE TOWN – South Africa director of rugby Rassie Erasmus says he’s “begging” to have the SA ‘A’ side play another game against the British & Irish Lions on Saturday.
Erasmus yesterday named their strongest-available side for the warm-up game against the Lions ahead of their three-Test Series, which kicks off on July 24. The Bok squad has settled in Cape Town ahead of tomorrow’s game between SA ‘A’ and the British & Irish Lions (kick-off 8pm).
With head coach Jacques Nienaber in isolation after testing positive for Covid-19, Erasmus has taken over the reins and fronted the media during a virtual team announcement yesterday.
During the briefing, Erasmus made it clear that he would much prefer the Lions to face the SA ‘A’ side in a rematch in their final tour game on Saturday before the Series kicks off, as opposed to the Stormers, who have been in a bubble since last Thursday.
“We are trying really hard to confirm another game on Saturday,” he said. “I don’t think our situation is so much to do with gelling at this stage, I think it’s match fitness, that’s our problem because if you do get Covid you need time to fully recover. So, our match fitness, in terms of when some guys last played, is a bit of a worry.
“We want to ask for another SA ‘A’ game because for me…and it’s my view that it would be the safest option. We’ve all tested negative two days in a row now, we’re in a hard bubble in Cape Town and no one is moving anywhere. The staff and everyone is negative, and it’s the same in the Lions camp.
“My honest opinion is that to play a franchise team, or even if we had to try and play against a side coming in, then I think the chances of infection are as good as we saw when we played against Georgia. Up until the Georgia Test we had only one positive case.
“However, after the Georgia match, we had eight management (members) who tested positive. I’m not pointing fingers at Georgia, but I think as soon as you bring teams from the outside in, it becomes a very tough situation to control. We saw that as well when the overseas-based players came into our camp, and although there were some false positives, that’s when we got infections. It wasn’t when we were staying in our bubble.
“After we played Georgia all our infections started, so in my opinion if the SA ‘A’ team can play on Wednesday, and then another on Saturday, I think it would be best medically and in terms of player welfare, and also for the people watching to have two really good match-ups between the two teams.
Erasmus added that in addition to another Lions-versus-SA 'A' being the ‘safest’ option in terms of transmission, he also highlighted how it would be better for the quality of the Series as well.
“I’m sure Warren [Gatland] and the guys wouldn’t say no to that. So, if I could have my way, and we could ask for that, it would be fantastic. It’s not just up to me to make those decisions, but I’m going to beg until we find really valid medical reasons to say that’s not actually the safest option.
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“I also think it will give us the best preparation to give good competition to the Lions, and I’m sure Warren would want us to be at full strength, and have good match fitness before we play the first Test. So, can’t say I’m confident, but I’m hoping.”
SA ’A’: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 S’bu Nkosi, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Japser Wiese, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Steven Kitshoff
Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Coenie Oosthuizen, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, 20 Rynhardt Elstadt, 21 Herschel Jantjies, 22 Jesse Kriel, 23 Damian Willemse, 24 Kwagga Smith, 25 Elton Jantjies.
Lions team: 15. Anthony Watson 14. Louis Rees-Zammit 13. Chris Harris 12. Bundee Aki 11. Josh Adams 10. Dan Biggar 9. Conor Murray 8. Taulupe Faletau 7. Tom Curry 6. Josh Navidi 5. Iain Henderson 4. Maro Itoje 3. Kyle Sinckler 2. Ken Owens 1. Wyn Jones
Replacements: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Zander Fagerson, 19 Adam Beard, 20 Tadhg Beirne, 21 Sam Simmonds, 22 Gareth Davies, 23 Elliot Daly