Gatland says 'NO' to fifth Test
REACTION: British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland has dismissed a request from the Springboks to allow the South African A team to replace the Stormers as opposition this coming Saturday.
Rassie Erasmus, SA’s Director of Rugby, admitted they would like the ‘A’ team to replace the Stormers in Saturday’s scheduled fifth tour match.
The tourists will face a very powerful SA ‘A’ team in Cape Town on Wednesday – a match labelled as the ‘fourth Test’ by B&I Lions skipper Conor Murray.
The Lions are currently due to play the Stormers on Saturday, their last match before the first Test at the Cape Town Stadium on July 24.
Erasmus is keen to squeeze in another game for the underdone Springboks, after last week’s second Test against Georgia was cancelled as a result of a COVID-19 wave in both camps.
“We are trying our best to arrange another game for Saturday,” Erasmus told a virtual media briefing.
However, Erasmus admitted it could be difficult to change the B&I Lions schedule at short notice.
“If we were so powerful as to change it [the schedule], we would just ask [B&I Lions coach] Warren [Gatland] and the team to play another South Africa ‘A’ game on Saturday,” he said.
“If I could have my way, and we could ask for that, that would be fantastic and I think the people would enjoy it.
“That would be ideal, but obviously I can’t just make those decisions.
“There’s a Lions board and CEOs, and a lot of other stakeholders involved.”
Gatland also immediately poured cold water on the idea.
“We won’t be playing them [SA A] on Saturday,” was Gatland’s curt response to a question about the Boks’ request.
Gatland said he understands why the Bok management is looking for an additional opportunity and already using Wednesday’s match to give their frontline players a run.
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B&I Lions tour captain Conor Murray, who will also skipper the team in the Wednesday game, described the first of three Cape Town matches as “the fourth Test”- given the strength of the SA ‘A’ named for the midweek clash.’
“It will be a trial run for the Tests – a fourth Test,” Murray told a virtual media briefing.
“Since we have arrived in Cape Town the players have switched into a more serious mode,” he said, adding: “Now, having seen the South African ‘A’ line-up, with will only sharpen our focus even more.
“It is like a fourth Test for us, given the line-up they have selected.”
* Meanwhile Gatland said they are still waiting to hear if they are to return to Gauteng after the first Test.
Gatland raised the prospect of the second and third Tests also being played in Cape Town.
“I haven’t had 100 percent confirmation yet,” Gatland told @rugby365com, when asked if there had been any developments.
“[We are] just waiting to hear from the South African side in terms of their organisation and what we actually doing.
“We know we are here for the next three games. We will just wait and see whether we are staying [in Cape Town] or going back up to Johannesburg.”
A spokesman for SA Rugby said the “status quo remains”, but they are monitoring a “fluid situation”.