Lions tour hits new snag with Siya Kolisi among six Springboks to test positive

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The British & Irish Lions have swapped the tough panorama of the highveld for the spectacular Western Cape, however on this tour that merely means observing a unique hotel-room wall. The newest Covid-19 information from the South Africa camp, the place their World Cup-winning captain, Siya Kolisi, is amongst a contemporary clutch of gamers to have examined optimistic, is a reminder that the resumption of regular service stays a distant dream.

With the Springboks’ head coach, Jacques Nienaber, nonetheless in isolation, Rassie Erasmus is again in non permanent cost of the day-to-day operating of a squad that has recorded one other 9 optimistic coronavirus circumstances, six gamers and three employees members. Additional disruption can’t be dominated out however a sizeable chunk of the squad have no less than been cleared to renew coaching after being confined to their rooms since final Monday.

Given the primary Check is happening on Saturday week there may be valuable little leeway out there to both hard-pressed teaching staff. Each Lions tour is about frantically laying key items of observe earlier than a fast-approaching steam prepare – the Check sequence – thunders across the bend and Warren Gatland’s job is being additional difficult by the dispiritingly one-sided nature of the warm-up fixtures.

Final week might come to be remembered because the second the whole rationale for conventional Lions provincial video games jumped the shark. Within the wake of Saturday’s 71-31 win over the franchise already overwhelmed 54-7 on Wednesday it’s more and more doable to argue that, by way of significant preparation, the Lions can be higher off both limbering up in opposition to the house unions or staging in-house coaching video games behind closed doorways.

Warren Gatland’s end-of-tour report could possibly be a vigorous learn. {Photograph}: David Gibson/Fotosport/Rex/Shutterstock

Gatland’s end-of-tour report already has the makings of a vigorous learn, with the eight-game format having additional undermined the supposedly sacred idea of gamers with the ability to hurdle their manner into the Check aspect by impressing in opposition to respectable native opposition. In equity to the Sharks they posed just a few bodily questions within the first half on Saturday however the Lions would nonetheless have gained with a bit to spare even with out the Forty fifth-minute pink card for Jaden Hendrikse.

For all of the robust operating of Duhan van der Merwe and the whirring toes of his fellow winger Anthony Watson, the day’s most vital growth was the call-up of Harlequins’s Marcus Smith as cowl for Finn Russell who, if 5 days in a surgical boot fail to enhance issues, might have his tour ended prematurely by a broken achilles tendon.

Whereas he was at all times unlikely to start out the opening Check, Russell gave the Lions a splash of one thing totally different and challenged his fellow 10s, Dan Biggar and Owen Farrell, to lift their very own video games. Now, for all of the attacking expertise which have not too long ago seen Smith conjure a Premiership title for Harlequins and gather the primary of probably many England caps, it’s now a certainty that Biggar and Farrell – health allowing – will each characteristic within the first Check 23.

The extra you have a look at it, the extra it feels as if a dozen positions in Gatland’s beginning XV are already just about sewn up. Among the many backs, Liam Williams at full-back, Watson and Josh Adams on the wings, Robbie Henshaw at centre and the skipper, Conor Murray, at scrum-half will all take some displacing. A tough core of seven forwards – Jamie George, Tadhg Furlong, Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes, Tadhg Beirne, Tom Curry and Taulupe Faletau – should be just about there as nicely.

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That most likely leaves three spots – fly-half, centre and loosehead prop – to be crammed, together with the bench. It’s nonetheless doable Biggar, Bundee Aki, Elliot Daly and Mako Vunipola will characteristic however Farrell’s identify can be again within the combine at both 10 or 12 whereas Scotland’s defensively sound Chris Harris retains exhibiting why Gatland picked him. The profile of Scotland’s Rory Sutherland can also be rising, except Wyn Jones turns in a colossal scrummaging efficiency on this week’s remaining auditions.

If not, the Wales prop plus Luke Cowan-Dickie, Kyle Sinckler, Jonny Hill, Hamish Watson, Ali Worth and Daly will all be hopeful of bench recognition, assuming the curse of Covid will be sidestepped. “I’d say everyone seems to be discovering it troublesome at instances however, on the identical time, it’s a must to be very grateful we’re capable of be right here,” insisted Beirne, who was amongst these compelled to spend two full days in isolation final week. It is a uniquely unusual, mentally demanding tour however a Lions Check jersey by no means loses its lustre.

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