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This week's two match cancellations in South Africa will be a Lions tour concern

By Liam Heagney

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The necessity of the bubble precautions required to ensure the British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa runs smoothly was underlined by two stories that have emerged from the host country this week, the cancellation of this weekend’s Emirates Lions versus DHL Stormers Rainbow Cup match and shutting down of the rugby operation in Eastern Province.

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July 3 is the date when the touring Lions will play their first match in South Africa but three weeks before that game takes place, their Johannesburg hosts, the local Emirates Lions, have had their closing Rainbow Cup match scratched. 

A statement from SA Rugby read: “The decision was taken as part of prescribed precautions advised by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) to limit the risk of further infection in the rugby community.

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“The decision was triggered on Friday following receipt of positive results from scheduled testing of the Emirates Lions squad. As determined by the competition rules, the DHL Stormers will be awarded four log points because of the cancellation.”

SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux said: “The Emirates Lions have followed all protocols and taken all the appropriate steps. While the cancellation is unfortunate, their approach ensures that the risk of cancellation of their match against the British and Irish Lions in the Lions series on July 3 is well managed.”

This weekend’s cancellation followed the development earlier this week where ex-Springboks coach Peter de Villiers and eleven Eastern Province players tested positive for Covid-19. A letter from president Andre Rademan to the EP executive committee, the region’s clubs and all EP staff was posted on social media on Tuesday confirming that the EP offices would be closed until June 14. 

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He added that a friendly match between the EP Elephants and Griquas, originally planned for June 12, was postponed a week before their opening-round Currie Cup first division match. “It’s a very sad development, but it is out of our control. We ask that everyone stay calm, keep safe and look after themselves. For this week there will be no further activities at EP Rugby.”

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This week's two match cancellations in South Africa will be a Lions tour concern

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