Scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/GRANT PITCHER
Scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/GRANT PITCHER

SA cancelled a planned training session for Sunday after three players tested positive for the Covid-19 virus on the eve on the British and Irish Lions’ departure to the country for a three-Test series next month.

First-choice scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies, prop Vincent Koch and wing S’bu Nkosi were named as the three players but SA’s director of rugby Rassie Erasmus said he did not think it was a serious matter and it would not impact on two warm-up Tests against Georgia or on the Lions tour.

“I don’t think it’s a big cause for concern but we want to keep everybody as safe as possible,” he told a news conference.

“We have followed strict proposals and everyone is isolated at the moment.”

All SA players arriving at their Johannesburg hotel on Saturday underwent coronavirus testing and were not allowed into their rooms unless they had tested negative.

A PCR test returned the three positives cases and they were being retested. Erasmus said he hoped the retesting would turn out negative with none of the trio showing any symptoms.

“If they are positive it is a case of being unlucky, not anything that they might have done wrong.”

Jantjies and Nkosi had been training with the Boks over the past weeks in Bloemfontein while Koch arrived at the weekend from English club Saracens.

“It is disruptive but it has happened to other rugby teams over the last months and we have enough players in our camp to go ahead with our matches. There is no threat to either the Tests against Georgia or the Lions tour,” Erasmus said.

The Springboks are in a biosecure hotel where they are the only residents. They play two Tests against Georgia on July 2 and 9, their first since they lifted the Rugby World Cup in Japan in November 2019.

The Lions leave for SA on Sunday for their eight-game tour, starting on Saturday against the Johannesburg-based Lions franchise. The three Test matches against the Boks will be played on consecutive Saturdays from July 24.

SA is in the grip of a third wave of Covid-19 infections, led by the Delta variant that was first discovered in India.

Meanwhile, Reuters reported that Ireland scrumhalf Conor Murray, who was named British and Irish Lions captain after an injury to Alun Wyn Jones, said it was disappointing to lose their regular skipper but backed himself to shoulder the responsibility on their tour of SA.

Jones, who was set to go on his fourth tour, dislocated his shoulder early in Saturday’s 28-10 win over Japan, while flanker Justin Tipuric was also ruled out. The pair were replaced by Welshmen Adam Beard and Josh Navidi.

“We’re very disappointed to lose Alun Wyn. He’s been brilliant for the first two weeks. I’ve known him from the past two tours and he’s been incredible. It’s a huge loss,” Murray said.

He said it was “surreal” when coach Warren Gatland asked him to captain the side. The 32-year-old added that he would work with the likes of England skipper Owen Farrell and Ireland’s Robbie Henshaw to ease himself into his new role.

“I still don’t have my head around it but it’s something that’s an unbelievable honour, it’s something I never thought would be possible,” Murray said.

“What puts me at ease is that we have such a good leadership group that it means I can continue being myself. There will be a bit more responsibility, but I don’t think it should change anything around the camp. That’s one of the most important things — that I remain myself and I assume that’s why Warren asked me to do it.”

Murray said one of the key qualities needed to succeed as a captain was to effectively communicate with the team. “Your messaging has to be well thought out ... In my career I suppose when I do speak it’s thought out. It might not be that often but it definitely has meaning and there’s thought behind it, and a genuineness to it,” he said.

“I’ve been lucky enough to experience a lot of leaders and they always bring it back to who you’re trying to make proud and what you’re here for. Driving that message is important.”

Reuters

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