Rassie Erasmus strongly rejects those questioning the integrity of the Lions tour

13 July 2021 - 12:22
By mahlatse mphahlele AND Mahlatse Mphahlele
SA Rugby director of rugby Rassie Erasmus has some tough decisions to make.
Image: Deryck Foster/BackpagePix SA Rugby director of rugby Rassie Erasmus has some tough decisions to make.

Rassie Erasmus has strongly dismissed suggestions that the integrity of the British & Irish Lions series is in question after a spate of Covid-19 cases wreaked havoc with warm-up matches in the past few days.

A British & Irish Lions vs Bulls match and the second Test between the Springboks and Georgia were cancelled due to positive cases. But the series continues on Wednesday when SA ‘A’ face the visiting British & Irish Lions in Cape Town.

Springboks coach Jacques Nienaber has named 18 Rugby World Cup winners in his team to be captained by Lukhanyo Am‚ making the match an unofficial fourth Test.

This match will also provide the British & Irish Lions with stronger competition after one-sided tour matches against the Lions and the Sharks.

“No‚ I don’t think so‚” said Erasmus when it was suggested that the series may have lost integrity.

“Just to give you some context‚ the Lions are over here and they are sacrificing as much. They are also in a hard bubble‚ they also had a case or two‚ they also had to isolate or quarantine‚ and it is the same for everybody.

“People will sit at home and see the Lions playing the Springboks‚ we will sing the anthems‚ we will still play for our country‚ there will be a referee‚ the field will still be 70m by 40m‚ there will be 15 guys on the field per team doing their best. Captains and coaches will also be doing their best.”

Erasmus said the Lions series is very important for the Springboks as it is the start of what is going to be a long season of international action where they will also have to prioritise the welfare of the players.

“We all have different situations in terms of where we are in the season and the Lions series is obviously a big thing for us this year. On the weekend after the final Lions Test match‚ we play against Argentina in two games.

“Then we get on the plane to Australia for eight weeks. We have three weeks off and then we go to the end of year tour. Long-term we will definitely have to manage guys with regards to their mental [strength] and welfare‚ and that’s why we have 46 players.

“Getting to that first Test against the Lions and the three proper matches will help with player welfare and their mental state. Not having fans and having a Covid-19 case here and there is like an injury‚ and it will be like the Lions best team against the Springboks team‚ which will be a great match.”