British & Irish Lions

SA's second wave of Covid-19 leaves British & Irish Lions tour in doubt

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British & Irish Lions fans (Getty)
British & Irish Lions fans (Getty)

There is doubt hovering over this year's British & Irish Lions tour to South Africa given the host country's second wave of coronavirus infections.

South Africa is currently in an adjusted Level 3 version of its national lockdown as the virus continues to sweep through the country at a worrying rate, with over 16 700 new cases and 418 coronavirus-related deaths recorded on New Years' Day alone.

With the second wave seemingly yet to reach its peak, the full magnitude of the damage caused by the virus or how long it will last is difficult to predict. 

The British Lions, last in South Africa in 2009, are set to play three Test matches against the world champion Springboks over July and August at FNB Stadium, Cape Town Stadium and Ellis Park. 

The tour gets underway on July 3 with five tour matches before the Test series , but given where the country is presently, there can be no guarantees that the coronavirus pandemic in South Africa will be under control by the time the tour gets underway. 

Speaking to Sport24 on Saturday, SA Rugby president Mark Alexander confirmed that, as has been stated previously, the tour would not be worthwhile if it was to happen behind closed doors with no spectators in attendance. 

While a vaccine has already been introduced in the United Kingdom, South Africa looks to have some way to go before it can make one readily accessible to its masses and that is an obvious problem. 

"Yes, we are concerned," Alexander said. 

"The virus has already taken so much from rugby over the past year, but it is completely out of our control at the moment."

Alexander said that any decisions on the tour would be taken by SA Rugby and the British Lions together as part of the joint venture they have entered into, commercially, for the tour. 

Any final decisions, he added, would need to be taken by March at the latest. 

"It happens every 12 years and it is a very special tour for South Africans, but at this stage all we can really do is wait and see," he said. 

The Springboks, crowned world champions on 2 November, 2019, have not played a Test match since and were forced to skip last year's Rugby Championship in Australia. 

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