Rassie Erasmus doesn’t feel there is any threat to this Friday’s all-important warm-up match against Georgia despite three players returning positive Covid-19 test results when the team assembled this past weekend.
Erasmus later said the affected players were Sibusiso Nkosi, Herschel Jantjies and Vincent Koch.
All were part of the 2019 Rugby World Cup-winning squad with scrumhalf Jantjies and tighthead prop Koch coming on as substitutes during the final against England in Japan.
Wing Nkosi was not part of the match-day 23 for the title decider as South Africa became world champions a record-equalling third time.
South Africa are preparing for home Tests against Georgia on 2 and 9 July and the British & Irish Lions on 24 and 31 July and 7 August, with all five matches to be staged behind closed doors.
After the positive tests, the entire squad was placed in precautionary self-isolation pending specialist medical advice.
Erasmus said the squad had adhered to all the necessary protocols during training in Bloemfontein, including mandatory tests three times a week, before transferring to Johannesburg this past weekend.
“I don’t think the Georgia Test match [is at risk], in my opinion, having followed the natural flow of how things happened and when the guys left [Bloemfontein] last Thursday and when the new guys came in and who was in contact with who,” Erasmus told media on Sunday.
“We’ve got a squad of 45 players, especially for that reason. We’ve got guys playing against the Lions next week at our provinces, so we will never not have enough players to play.
“Even if there are players inside that are positive, we can draft a player from the outside who is anywhere on the Test radar at the provinces.
“I think it would be 100% bad luck or something more external that makes that decision, but I can’t see it.
“We will have enough numbers … even if we have to pick a totally new team. I’m fairly sure that in this group of 45, there are very few guys that are actually infected.”
Coronavirus has prevented the Springboks playing since they defeated England in Yokohama on 2 November 2019.
South Africa are also scheduled to play six Rugby Championship matches between August and October and three Tests on a November tour of Europe.
“Although it disrupts our training sessions, and it’s not ideal, but I can remember England had Matthew Proudfoot out after he tested positive and couldn’t coach, and Eddie [Jones] had to self-isolate as a result.
“So, it’s something that happens all over the world. This is not something totally new. A lot of our players who have played for clubs in the Premiership and are part of provincial teams have gone through this.
“It’s the first time for Jacques and me because we haven’t coached provincially in this environment.
“But if people think about it clearly, we basically have to put 23 Springbok players on the park on Friday.
- Additional reporting from AFP