The Lions who will be facing the Springboks in three Tests from July 24 has arrived in South Africa. The tests will go ahead despite the country held hostage by a third wave of Covid-19 infections, which have prompted tightened restrictions including a 9 pm curfew.
South Africa is the worst-hit country on the African continent in terms of recorded cases and deaths. On Saturday, they reported almost 18,000 new cases, which have approached the peak of daily infections seen in a second wave in January.
On Sunday, the Springboks reported three positive Covid-19 cases in their camp. However scrum-half Herschel Jantjies was cleared after a second test was conducted. This has resulted in questions being asked about the fate of the tour.
South African Rugby president Mark Alexander said in a statement to South African media, however, that they were moving forward. “I don’t see things drastically changing overnight,” he said. “We have to make peace with the fact that there won’t be spectators, but the tour will go on, and we’ll have all the games, even the provincial ones.”
Since winning the Rugby World Cup in November 2019, the Springboks have not played a Test. The resulting loss of revenue has forced South Africa Rugby to shave R1.2 billion (£61 million) off their budget for 2020.
Alexander said that had the Lions series been cancelled and the Springboks went through another year without playing a Test, it could have spelt the end of professional rugby in South Africa. He further added that the measures Lions tour organizers have put in place to safeguard players and team officials from Covid-19 will be enough to ensure it goes ahead successfully.