British & Irish Lions confirm 'Plan B' opponents for Saturday fixture
The British & Irish Lions have confirmed that they will play back-to-back matches against the Cell C Sharks to “ensure the tourists can continue to prepare for the Test series against the Springboks later this month.”
The Bulls and the Lions were forced to cancel the fixture after an outbreak in the South African side’s camp, a move that left Warren Gatland’s men without an opponent at short notice. The Lions have since suffered their own outbreak, with a positive test for both a member of the management team and a player.
A statement reads: “SA Rugby and the Lions have agreed to replace the Vodacom Bulls with the Cell C Sharks at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday (kick-off 18h00 SAT, 17h00 BST), after the former was ruled out because of COVID-19 infections.
The Lions hammered the Sharks 54-7 at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg on Wednesday in the second match of the Castle Lager Lions Series. The tourists had opened their account at the same venue with a 56-14 victory over the Sigma Lions on Saturday.
“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, CEO 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 Managing Director for The British & Irish Lions, Ben Calveley. “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 COVID-19 pandemic.”
The Lions are awaiting fresh PCR tests that will potentially allow eight to twelve isolated players to return to training.
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