Rassie: We’ll do anything to play B&I Lions

South Africa’s director of rugby Rassie Erasmus says the Springboks will go to ‘option Z’ if necessary in order to ensure they can play the British & Irish Lions. CRAIG LEWIS reports.

The eight-man Lions board recently held a meeting as discussions have intensified around the viability of the tour continuing as planned in South Africa from July.

Understandably, contingency planning has increased due to concerns that games could be seriously affected, or would have to be played in empty stadiums, due to a second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.

A decision about the tour has yet to be made, but alternative options have included holding the series in the UK and Ireland, or postponing the tour to 2022.

A number of former British & Irish Lions players have suggested it would go against the ethos of the touring team to play the series in the northern hemisphere, while scheduling concerns have been raised in relation to fitting the series into the 2022 calendar.

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However, during a wide-ranging virtual media conference on Monday, Erasmus insisted that the Springboks would rule nothing out as they endeavoured to ensure the tour would be possible.

‘We desperately want to play the Lions, and we will do anything to play them. This series only comes around every 12 years. I have heard the different calls and opinions about the tour, and although we didn’t play in the Rugby Championship because of player welfare, it was also because we knew there was this big series in 2021.

‘If option one of playing in South Africa doesn’t work out, we will go to option Z to make it happen. We don’t want to lose [out on playing] the Lions series, we feel we deserve to play against them. I want to, Jacques [Nienaber] wants to, the players want to, so from our side we’ll do anything.’

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Erasmus added that they were currently continuing to plan for the tour to go ahead on the original schedule.

‘The frustration is unbelievable [that the Boks haven’t been able to play since the World Cup], but we know we can’t compare that to how devastating the impact of this pandemic has been, and how people have suffered.

‘But, yes, we will explore any option to play the Lions, we will play next year, we will play over there. This is the view from a player and management perspective.’

Photo: Getty Images

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Craig Lewis