British & Irish Lions

Rassie: 'Desperate' Springboks would choose 'Option Z' to make Lions tour happen

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Rassie Erasmus (Gallo Images)
Rassie Erasmus (Gallo Images)
  • The Springboks are currently still preparing for this year's British & Irish Lions tour to go ahead without disruption, but are willing to be flexible.
  • While acknowledging that he only speaks from a team's perspective, national director of rugby, Rassie Erasmus, said South Africa would even choose "Option Z" to make the series happen.
  • Erasmus also noted that the tour is important to reward players and staff who made sacrifices to be part of the tour.

A Springbok team "desperate" to show their mettle against the British & Irish Lions this year is currently still preparing as if the tour will go ahead in its current guise.

However, Rassie Erasmus, the national director of rugby, hinted on Monday that sacrifices might have to be made in order for the showpiece series to take place.

With South Africa and the UK still in the grip of a second wave of Covid-19 infections, doubts have been raised over whether the tour's extensive commercial value can be maximised without international travel and crowds.

SA Rugby previously stated that it wouldn't make sense to let the two teams play behind closed doors.

As a result, contingency plans are apparently being discussed, one being the hosting of the matches in the UK.

"Any option we can get not to lose the Lions tour, we’ll take," Erasmus told a media briefing.

"I’m talking from a coach's or team management perspective. Obviously there are commercial factors to take into account, which isn't my department, but from a rugby perspective, I can tell you we’re willing to do anything."

And that, ostensibly, means anything from delaying the tour by another year to travelling to centres such as Dublin, London and Cardiff to play the three Tests.

That might not find favour with various stakeholders though as evidenced by Lions legend Willie John McBride stating publicly that moving the series to the UK would "destroy" the ethos of the team and a group of fans launching a petition for the tour to take place in 2022.

"We would love to play the Lions. We're desperate to play them, and we’ll do anything. We know this opportunity only comes around every 12 years," said Erasmus.

"All the opinions that have come out about contingencies and traditions are things that we need to take into account and even consider.

"We sacrificed the Rugby Championship last year because we knew this tour was on the horizon. If, at the end of the day, option A doesn’t work in SA and option B and C is this or that, we’ll go all the way down to option Z.

"At this stage, we’re panning as if things will go ahead as planned. We will never stop this tour, we’ll find a solution. We’re not going to get to the stage where we wonder about whether this or that - for example having to play it overseas - puts us on the backfoot. We want to play."

South Africa's 2019 World Cup-winning coach also noted that team management and various players had made career-altering, perhaps even life-changing, decisions in order to be in the shake-up for the tour.

"The frustration is unbelievable, with due respect. It's not a patch on the challenges our Covid victims and frontline workers have experienced, but it's been difficult for us too," said Erasmus.

"We wanted to go play in the Rugby Championship. We wanted to play Scotland and co last year. It’s tough, players lose hope, veterans question whether they should’ve stayed on in South Africa to play in this series. It’s important to make this happen."    

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