British & Irish Lions

SA Rugby gives up Lions tour spectators pursuit amid Covid cases spike: 'It would be ridiculous to have fans'

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Mark Alexander. (Photo by Lee Warren/Gallo Images)
Mark Alexander. (Photo by Lee Warren/Gallo Images)
(Photo by Lee Warren/Gallo Images)
  • SA Rugby has thrown in the towel and has given up its pursuit to persuade government to allow spectators into stands for the British and Irish Lions tour next month.
  • Union president Mark Alexander told Sport24: "It would be ridiculous to host spectators when we're in this crisis."
  • The Springboks face Georgia at Loftus on Friday night (19:00) in a match that could face changes after government adjusted curfew times to between 21:00 and 04:00.

SA Rugby has thrown in the towel and has given up its pursuit to persuade government to allow spectators into stands for the British and Irish Lions tour next month.

Union president Mark Alexander told Sport24 that they gave up their almost year-long dream of having something akin to a normal Lions series by having a modicum of fans in the stands, saying it would be "ridiculous" at this juncture.

South Africa is dealing with a third coronavirus wave that is sweeping through the country and caused government to enforce stricter level four lockdown measures that President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Sunday.

READ | Covid blow for Bok duo ahead of Georgia Test: 'They were definitely in the mix for selection'

Despite the country's move to level four and Gauteng being the epicentre of the current wave, sport has been allowed to continue, meaning, at least on paper, the Lions series was still going ahead.

"We are happy with the government regulations, the current [adjusted] level four," Alexander said on Monday.

"We will just hold back on pursuing spectators for now because it would be ridiculous to host spectators when we're in this crisis.

"The Lions tour is not in jeopardy. We'll continue playing.

"We can't stop livelihoods. These players are working, but from a spectator point of view, I don't think we will be able to have spectators.

"I don't see things drastically changing overnight. 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.

"The provincial unions will go into a bubble before they get into the game to play.

"The Emirates Lions are in a bubble right now."

The Lions arrived in South Africa on Monday and are kicking off their tour with a clash against the domestic Lions at Ellis Park on Saturday (18:00 kick-off).

Meanwhile, the Springboks are dealing with a mini-outbreak after three stars tested positive for Covid last weekend.

They face Georgia at Loftus on Friday night (19:00) in a match that could face changes after government adjusted curfew times to between 21:00 and 04:00.

"We are looking at all those logistics and talking to government," said Alexander on the possible changes that could happen to the Bok schedule this week.

"We are not too sure whether we can continue and play at the time we have scheduled, considering curfew does not affect people who are working at that time.

"We just need to make sure that, yes, we can continue, and we're waiting on government to get more guidance on whether we can start the games as planned or whether we have to move them forward."

Alexander, who is not one of the officials inside the Springbok bio-safe environment, was also asked whether or not the three positive cases found had led to a virus spread inside the camp.

"Definitely not, but the team will know more about that because I'm not with the guys [inside the bubble]," he added.

"We've got a full medical team there, and the guys get tested several times per week, so we are in control.

"It's one chap from abroad (Vincent Koch) and a couple of local players (Sbu Nkosi and Herschel Jantjies) that got it. They are dealing with it internally inside the bubble, so I can't tell you for sure [how wide it's spread]."

SA Rugby released a statement on Monday confirming that the Boks would return to training on the advice of their Lions series medical advisory group.

Among the ones who tested positive, Jantjies has been cleared to train with the rest of the team.

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