South Africa forwards during their warm-up game against Georgia which took place before the Covid-19 outbreak in their camp

Credit: AFP

Lions head coach Warren Gatland is preparing for yet more upheaval next week with the Covid-19 outbreak understood to be spreading within the Springbok camp. 

The Lions already had to change Saturday afternoon’s warm-up fixture against the Bulls, who returned a raft of positive matches, to a second match against the Sharks at Loftus Versfeld. 

That disruption is set to continue into next week when the tour moves from Johannesburg to Cape Town. Gatland’s team are due to play South Africa A on Wednesday before their final warm-up match against the Stormers next Saturday leading into the Test series. 

However, the Springboks are still struggling to contain an outbreak after 11 positive cases were reported on Tuesday. That may force the South African Rugby Union to swap the Stormers and South Africa A fixtures in the schedule. 

“We’re not 100%, it will be either the Springboks or the Stormers. They might switch those games around,” Gatland said. “That hasn’t been confirmed but hopefully in the next 24 hours we’ll know which way those games go.” 

The Lions also experienced the chaos that a positive test can cause when a staff member complained of feeling ill on the Wednesday morning of their first match against the Cell C Sharks. The entire squad were placed into lockdown and were only given the green light to play the game by the Medical Advisory Group just two hours before kick-off.

In spite of the disruption, the Lions went on to win 54-7 which led Gatland to praise their “outstanding” resilience. Four staff members, including attack coach Gregor Townsend, as well as a player remain in isolation and are set to the miss the fixture on Wednesday, whoever the Lions are playing. 

The South African Rugby Union is due to publish a further update later, but Gatland is anticipating that they will be forced to push back the South Africa A game until next Saturday. 

“I think there are a number of players that have tested positive and they’re in sort of isolation and locked down,” Gatland said. “And I don’t know how much training that they’ve been doing as a group. So they may need to have an internal hit out against each other with not being able to play the Georgia game and and potentially their game could be switched from Wednesday to Saturday.”