COVID scare: Boks cancel training; Test series safe
BREAKING NEWS: The Springboks cancelled Sunday’s planned training session in Johannesburg as a precautionary measure, when scheduled testing protocols returned three positive COVID-19 test results.
The Bok team to play the British and Irish Lions in a three-Test series next month re-assembled in Johannesburg on Saturday.
In a statement, SA Rugby said three players tested positive for the virus “following stringent real-time polymerase chain reaction testing procedures” on arrival at the team base.
“Team management immediately put the squad into self-isolation as a precaution until specialist medical advice is sought from the Lions Series Medical Advisory Group,” the statement said.
A decision on further team activities will be made shortly.
The world champions are due to play Georgia in two warm-up Tests – on Friday, July 2 and July 9.
The tests against the B&I Lions are on July 24 (at the Cape Town Stadium), July 31 and August 7 (the latter two at Soccer City in Soweto).
South Africa’s Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus emphasised that the team had followed all the necessary precautions since the start of the three-week conditioning camp hosted in Bloemfontein – which included mandatory COVID-19 testing three times a week – and that they would be led by specialist advice before any action is taken.
The three players who provided positive results are Stormers scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies, Sharks flyer Sibusiso Nkosi and Saracens-based prop Vincent Koch.
Erasmus said the players are all ‘asymptomatic’.
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The SA Rugby boss dismissed the notion that the positive cases could cause the cancellation of the Tests or the tour.
Erasmus said Sunday was the first day that all the players from France, and England had joined the squad – after their European competitions had concluded.
“With players coming in from all over, there is always a chance of infection,” Erasmus told a virtual media briefing.
“The medical and COVID-19 protocols we follow are very strict,
“When we re-assembled at the hotel [in Johannesburg], we were not allowed to go to our rooms until we got the PCR tests.
“Obviously people travel here and there will be contact [situations].
“At this stage, we feel it [the risk] is to the minimum.
“The hotel is sanitised and a zone [bubble] on its own.
“Nobody can come in and out, except us. We are staying on our own in the hotel.”
Erasmus added that despite the positive tests, they still have enough COVID-free players in camp to ensure the Georgia Tests and the B&I Lions series can go ahead.
“We have a squad of 46 for that very reason,” he said of the positive tests, adding: “We will never not have enough players to play.
“Even if players in the [Bok] camp are positive, we can draft players in from the franchises who are currently on a testing regime with their provinces and are cleared.”