We’re desperate for Lions tour to go ahead, says Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus
CAPE TOWN – Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus says he desperately wants the British & Irish Lions Series to go ahead and would do “anything to play them”.
Much doubt has been cast over the tour due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the viability of having South Africa host the matches amid a second wave and the repercussions that come with it.
As games would be heavily affected and would possibly have to be played in empty stadiums, alternative measures, such as postponing the tour to 2022 and seeing the United Kingdom and Ireland playing host, have been a hot topic of discussion in recent weeks.
During a digital media briefing on Monday, Erasmus said that they would “go to option Z” to ensure that the Springboks play the Lions.
“We desperately want to play the Lions and we will do anything to play them. This series only comes around once every 12 years. I have heard the different calls and opinions about the tour, and although we didn’t play in the Rugby Championship because of player welfare, it was also because we knew there was this big series in 2021,” Erasmus said.
“If option one of playing in South Africa doesn’t work out, we will go to option Z to make sure that it happens. We don’t want to lose the Lions series and we feel we deserve to play against them. I want to, Jacques (Nienaber; Springbok coach) wants to, and the players want to. So, from our side, we’ll do anything.”
The Boks haven’t played since their remarkable World Cup-triumph in Japan in 2019, and while Erasmus admitted that it’s been a frustrating time, he highlighted the fact that rugby is by no means the only entity that’s been hit hard by the pandemic.
“The frustration is unbelievable, but we know we can’t compare that to how devastating the impact of this pandemic has been, and how people have suffered.
“But we will explore any option to play the Lions – we will play next year, we will play over there. This is the view from a player and management perspective.”
On the domestic front, the former Bok coach also congratulated the top four Currie Cup teams – the Bulls, Western Province, Sharks, and Lions – on making the semi-finals under unprecedented circumstances.
On Saturday, the log-topping Bulls will host the Lions at 2pm, while the Sharks will travel to Cape Town to face WP (4.30pm).
“The 2020 Currie Cup was certainly an anomaly with the Covid-19 pandemic creating a cloud of uncertainty both in terms of training and the match schedule,” said Erasmus.
“I would like to thank all the teams for their perseverance and the admirable way in which they responded to these challenges.”
“This season tested the coaches, players, management staff and the provincial unions in a variety of ways and, despite this, we are preparing for an exciting end to the season where a champion will be crowned.”