A South Africa side is in line to benefit from a desired second warm-up game this weekend, albeit against the Bulls and not the British & Irish Lions, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
On Monday, South Africa’s director of rugby Rassie Erasmus was particularly frank when stating that he hoped that two SA A games could take place against the Lions as the Boks look to increase their match preparation for the Test series.
However, those hopes have failed to materialise with Lions coach Warren Gatland stating rather curtly on Monday that a second successive game against SA A was not going to happen.
The Lions have played three tour games already, and have yet to be tested “over 80 minutes”, but they will know that this Wednesday’s battle against a powerful SA A side filled with World Cup winners will provide a stern challenge in Cape Town.
Gatland will likely feel that this will have offered a decent enough examination before one more tour game against the Stormers this Saturday, which will conclude the Lions’ pre-Test warm-up games before taking on the Boks on 24 July.
By contrast, the Boks are desperate to increase their match preparation for the Test series after a widespread Covid-19 outbreak in the camp last week severely disrupted the team’s preparation rhythm.
On Monday, Erasmus advocated for another SA A game in order to boost the players’ match fitness and give them the best possible chance to push for places in the Springbok Test team.
Several players are still completing their return-to-play safety protocols after testing positive for Covid-19, with captain Siya Kolisi, for example, facing a race against time to be cleared for selection for the first Test after a lengthy period of isolation.
However, someone like Handre Pollard could be able to return to training later this week and potentially bank some more game time in another SA A game.
This website has now learned that a match against the Bulls has been lined up in order to afford the Springboks the essential benefit of some more match preparation.
The Pretoria-based side saw their scheduled game against the Lions called off due to an outbreak in the Bulls camp, and although it was initially suggested it could be postponed, that possibility has faded away in recent times.
It’s believed the Bulls are already on their way to Cape Town, and will remain in a ‘hard bubble’ before facing up against a South Africa A/Springbok side this weekend.
Earlier this week, Erasmus highlighted why it was so important for the team to get another hit-out.
“If we had played Georgia twice and the SA A game, we couldn’t ask for more to get the guys match fit,” Erasmus said on Monday when referencing the hope of facing the Lions again. “You also want to let them have a bit of a break and a buildup. So, we actually just lost one week of training and one match.
“If we do manage to get that match back on Saturday, then actually what we have lost is seven days of sitting in a hotel room. I think the 10 guys who isolated will tell you, you don’t go to pieces and totally out of shape in those seven days.
“So, we will be OK . It’s a three-match Test series. There will be injuries on both sides after the SA A game. But the Lions have also had cases and close contacts. That’s why we don’t want to sit here and make excuses. We will deal with it.”