Josh Navidi runs with the ball during the Lions' 54-7 win on Wednesday

Credit: GETTY IMAGES

The British and Irish Lions are to play back-to-back matches against the Cell C Sharks after clearance was given for the new fixture to go ahead at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

The Lions had been due to play the Vodacom Bulls only for the game to be postponed after the South African franchise experienced an outbreak of Covid-19 in their squad.

The Lions, who beat the Sharks 54-7 at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg on Wednesday, are also awaiting an update about the extent of Covid-19 in their own squad.

Nine players were withdrawn from the match-day squad to isolate after one player and a member of the Lions management team tested positive following PCR testing as part of the tour screening programme. However, head coach Warren Gatland is now confident that he can field a squad.

“The choice of the Cell C Sharks was dictated by the fact that they have been in a bubble, have returned negative tests throughout and were prepared to take on the fixture,” said Jurie Roux, chief executive of SA Rugby. 

“No other team in the country could meet those conditions right now – without going into a five-day lockdown. It is not an ideal situation, but COVID-19 has made sure that we do not live in an ideal world.”

The change has meant that the Cell C Sharks’ match against the Sigma Lions in the Carling Currie Cup on Saturday has been cancelled with a decision on the points allocation to be confirmed. 

“We’re very grateful to the Sharks for agreeing to play us again this Saturday at Loftus Versfeld,” said Ben Calveley, the Lions managing director.

“We have further Covid-19 testing scheduled for today and tomorrow. The results of those tests will determine whether we will be able fulfil this fixture, but, as it stands, we are optimistic. 

“We remain committed to the tour in South Africa and determined to rise to the challenges created by the pandemic.”