VIDEO: It is 'all systems go' after COVID-scare
British and Irish Lions Managing Director Ben Calveley insists there are no plans to stop the tour or move it to the United Kingdom, despite this week’s massive COVID scare.
Calveley, addressing the media in a virtual briefing, insisted they are committed to playing the Test series against South Africa in the Republic.
The B&I Lions will play a hastily-arranged second match against the Sharks at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday.
The fixture replaces the originally scheduled match against the Pretoria-based Bulls, after several Bulls players tested positive for COVID.
One player and one member of the touring staff tested positive on Wednesday, forcing coach Warren Gatland to make eight changes in his 23-man squad ahead of their first match against the Sharks at Ellis Park in Johannesburg.
The changes were the result of ‘close contacts’ with the infected personnel.
On the same day, the Springboks announced that their second Test against Georgia – scheduled for Ellis Park on Friday – has been cancelled as a result of a COVID outbreak in the camp.
The B&I Lions boss dismissed the suggestion that the tour is doomed as a result of the COVID wave sweeping the Republic.
He admitted the COVID-outbreak is a “challenge”, but they are not about to throw in the towel.
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“I’m not going to sit here and say this is easy, but we are absolutely determined to make it work and we have put measures in place to make it work,” Calveley said.
He added they made the decision back in March to stage the tour in South Africa – as opposed to the alternative of moving it to the United Kingdom – and he still believes that to be the right decision.
“There are absolutely no plans to deviate from our agreed strategy,” Calveley told a virtual media briefing.
He insisted they are living in a “very strict bio-secure environment” and that it applies to both the B&I Lions and Springbok camps.
“We want to play the matches so that we can prepare the side to be ready to take on the Springboks in the Test series and that was very much the driver behind the decision to go ahead on Saturday.”
Calveley said that at this stage there were no changes to the tour itinerary, apart from the Sharks replacing the Bulls as opponents on Saturday.
But he said talks with SA Rugby about contingency plans were ongoing.
“We are doing everything we possibly can to make sure the tour goes ahead and we are determined to make it a success.”
* Meanwhile the B&I Lions boss revealed that all the players are likely to be available for the match against the Sharks on Saturday.
Calveley cleared up what happened this week that resulted in Wednesday’s match being in doubt, then delayed by an hour and eventually being played.
He said a player who had tested “a very low level positive” on Wednesday had tested negative on Thursday.
The player will have to undergo another test on Friday and if he again tests negative, he and six close contacts will be available to be considered for Saturday’s match in Pretoria.
Calveley said the staff member had tested positive again on Thursday, which meant the two close contacts had to remain in isolation.