FILE - British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland. Photo: Matthew Childs/Reuters
FILE - British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland. Photo: Matthew Childs/Reuters

Should British & Irish Lions abandon Joburg and move to Cape Town bio bubble?

By Mike Greenaway Time of article published Jun 27, 2021

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DURBAN – SA Rugby bosses and their counterparts at the British and Irish Lions need to make a brave and immediate decision on the imminent tour, and that is to abandon the Johannesburg bio bubble and move the entire tour to Cape Town.

The Lions arrive on Monday in one of the global epi-centres of the Covid-19 pandemic and for them to now stay in Jo’burg to play three scheduled matches before moving to the Cape Town bubble on Sunday, July 11 borders on irresponsible.

New infections are mushrooming each day in South Africa and nearly 70 percent of them are in Gauteng, while three Springbok players — Herschel Jantjies, Sbu Nkosi and Vincent Koch — tested positive when the squad reassembled in Jo’burg on Sunday following the three-week training camp in Bloemfontein.

ALSO READ: Rassie Erasmus hopeful Georgia Test goes ahead after Springboks’ positive Covid-19 tests

The Lions then have three fixtures in the Cape before returning to Jo’burg for a fortnight of Test matches. Again this is crazy, and they should just stay put in Cape Town where the virus is relatively under control and complete the tour there.

It might sound like I am suggesting the tour organisers hit the panic button but it is not a case of being an alarmist, it is just common sense.

The Cape Town bubble is already set up, so will it really be that much of a logistical nightmare if the tour goes there two weeks earlier than originally planned?

ALSO READ: Georgia Test in doubt after three Springboks test positive for Covid

The B&I Lions are due to play the local Lions this Saturday at Ellis Park, so moving this fixture to a Cape Town venue in a few days is a big ask but we have seen so much adaptability from our rugby teams in this pandemic that I believe it can be done.

The Boks are due to play Georgia on Friday night in Pretoria and the teams have a second Test a week later in Johannesburg. The feasibility of these matches is under review by a medical advisory group because of the positive results in the Bok camp but anxious Bok bosses Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber are optimistic these games can go ahead.

“The decision will be made externally but I don’t think Friday’s game will be impacted,” said Erasmus. “It is why we have 45 guys in camp — so that we will never be in a situation where we don’t have enough players to play a match. To play against Georgia we need to have 23 players who test negative for Covid. If we had to, we would go outside the current Bok group but that shouldn’t be necessary.

ALSO READ: Injured Lions captain Alun Wyn Jones out of South Africa tour

“We need to see this in perspective,” Erasmus continued. “This is the first time myself and Jacques are experiencing something like this, but our franchise teams and many of the international teams have experienced it. For instance, England assistant coach Matt Proudfoot tested positive and he and England head coach Eddie Jones had to isolate last year, and Fiji also had a problem. It is just a reality of the times we are living in.”

Nienaber said that he has always known that flexibility is vital in these challenging times.

“The priority is to keep both ourselves and the opposition as safe as possible. We know there are going to be times when we will have to make plans on the run. In terms of the selection for Friday, Herschel and Sbu were both in the mix for selection because they have been with us in Bloemfontein and have been part of the processes, but Vincent has just arrived (from England) and would not have been considered for selection.”

ALSO READ: ‘Intensity 10 times higher’: Bongi Mbonambi warns Springboks about Georgia scrum

As Nienaber says, safety is the priority, and that is why the sooner the rugby fixtures shift out of Gauteng the better.

@MikeGreenaway67

IOL Sport

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