The British & Irish Lions look to be in line for a second successive tour match against the Sharks after Saturday’s encounter with the Bulls had to be called off, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
On Wednesday, the Lions overcame a Covid-19 scare in their own camp, and proceeded to claim a comfortable 54-17 victory over the Sharks.
For several days now, the Durban-based side has been based in Johannesburg, where they have been in a bio-secure bubble preparing for the clash with the Lions.
This website has since learned that plans are well under way to extend the Sharks’ stay and for them to once again front up to the touring team on Saturday.
Earlier in the week, it was confirmed the originally scheduled match between the Lions and Bulls would not be able to take place on Saturday after four Bulls players and one member of management returned positive Covid-19 tests which, in combination with their close contacts, made it impossible for them to field a team, according to series safety protocols.
The match was initially postponed with a view to rescheduling or accommodating an alternative opponent, but the latter option was always the most likely to materialise.
On Wednesday, British & Irish Lions managing director Ben Calveley stated that they were “working with the South African Rugby Union to find alternative opponents”.
It’s believed the Pumas were one of the teams in consideration for a replacement match on Saturday, but coach Jimmy Stonehouse told SARugbymag.co.za on Thursday that while they would have loved the opportunity to play against the B&I Lions, their Currie Cup schedule made such a fixture a difficult proposition.
The Pumas are set to play the Cheetahs on Friday, while the Sharks were scheduled to host the Johannesburg-based Lions in the Currie Cup on Saturday.
It now remains to be seen whether the Sharks-Lions Currie Cup game might be rescheduled or some kind of arrangement made regarding log points.
There is no way the Sharks would be able to fulfil both fixtures, but understandably the opportunity to play the British & Irish Lions again, and to do their part in assisting the integrity of the Lions tour has made the Durbanites willing to face Gatland’s team for the second time within a week.
It’s expected that the results from another round of PCR testing will be awaited, and once confirmed that both teams are able to proceed satisfactorily with the fixture, that it will then be confirmed.