Wednesday’s tour match against the Cell C Sharks was pushed back to a 7pm kick-off as the Lions awaited results of PCR tests; the Lions subsequently said two people tested positive for coronavirus and 12 further members of touring party were isolating at the team hotel
One British and Irish Lions player and one member of staff have tested positive for coronavirus, forcing a further 12 people within the touring party to isolate.
After one positive result came from a lateral flow test as part of their screening programme earlier in the day, the Lions confirmed later on Wednesday that eight players and four members of staff had been placed in isolation at the team hotel following further PCR testing.
The tourists also announced eight enforced changes to the team to play the Sharks in Johannesburg later in the day, with kick-off delayed by an hour while the latest round of testing took place.
Liam Williams, Anthony Watson, Dan Biggar, Gareth Davies, Tadhg Beirne, Conor Murray, Stuart Hogg and Chris Harris were all removed from the original matchday squad announced for the game.
The latest developments are a huge setback to the tour’s prospects, with the Lions due to face South Africa in a three-Test series starting on July 24.
Sarra Elgan reports from Johannesburg where coronavirus cases are on the rise and could disrupt the schedules of the British and Irish Lions and South Africa
Lions managing director Ben Calveley said after the initial positive result: “We have followed all necessary precautions since the start of the tour, which included regular testing and rigorous Covid-19 counter-measure planning and protocols.
“Our priority is to ensure the health and safety of the entire touring party, which is why we quickly isolated the players and staff upon receiving the news of the positive result.”
The Springboks’ scheduled warm-up Test against Georgia on Friday, meanwhile, has been cancelled because of Covid-19 infections in both camps – including Springbok head coach Jacques Nienaber – and on Tuesday it was announced that the Lions’ tour match against the Bulls on Saturday has been postponed due to a Covid-19 outbreak within the hosts’ party.
Four Bulls players and one member of management returned positive tests which, in combination with their close contacts, made it impossible for them to field a team. The game will either be rescheduled or an alternative opponent will be found.