British & Irish Lions managing director Ben Calveley has parked the idea the Test series against the Springboks being uprooted to the UK, as a Covid-19 outbreak in both camps impacted their preparations.
The Lions had to adjust their squad selection for their match against the Sharks on Wednesday evening, following a positive test to one of the team’s management staff.
This initially led to two players needing to self-isolate, with one later testing positive from the team’s round of screening.
It left the Lions without nine players in all due to isolation and close contact rules, meaning Finn Russell was the only available back to have on the replacements in a 7-1 split.
After beating the Sharks 54-7, thanks to hat-tricks for Josh Adams and Duhan van der Merwe, the Lions now face two more teams before facing the Springboks for the first time on July 24.
And, after the world champions spent the whole of Wednesday in panic mode after more positive cases rendered their match against Georgia this Saturday infeasible, Calveley addressed calls for the tour to be re-routed to the UK.
“All the games are important, but the Test series is paramount. We are here in South Africa and our intention is to get the games over the line here in South Africa,” Calveley told Sky Sports.
“We play the Sharks here tonight, we then move down to Cape Town on Sunday and at the moment there is no intention to deviate from that agreed schedule.
“Nearly all of the Lions tour party have been double-jabbed. There are people in the touring party who haven’t, but the majority have.
“It hasn’t been an exhasusting day. We are seeing it as a positive, we are lucky to have a fantastic group of players and to get over these challenges as they present themselves.”
Wednesday was an unsettling day for the Lions as the squad awaited news on whether the match would go ahead at 5pm.
They received the go-ahead at 5.15pm with the kick-off revised to 6pm, meaning the team had to rush to Ellis Park to prepare.
Calveley said this is just one of the challenges the party were expecting after one staff member first tested positive.
“We immediately isolated everybody in the tour party. We then both laterally flow and PCR tested everybody and those results came back negative, except for one. So we isolated that one individual and all of his close contacts.
“Dialogue with our medical advisory group, which comprises a number of relevant medical experts, and their advice was that the match could proceed.
“The group is made up of independent virologists and experts in infectious disease whose recommendation was that the match could be played.
“We see it is a positive. We are showing that we can overcome all the challenges that face us and are determined to put a tour on for the players, for our fans, and our friends here in South Africa.”