Fears are growing over the British and Irish Lions’ Test series in South Africa after a spate of Covid-19 cases hit both teams’ warm-up matches.
The Lions were due to play the Vodacom Bulls on Saturday in their third tour match but that has now been postponed indefinitely after five Covid cases in their opponents’ camp.
South Africa, meanwhile, are considering cancelling or postponing their Test against Georgia on Friday after several players from both teams tested positive.
The Lions are due to play the first of three Tests against the Springboks on Saturday 24 July in Johannesburg.
Covid cases have surged to the point that South Africa president Cyril Ramaphosa has said he expects this third wave to be the deadliest yet.
“These positive results are a setback and have underlined the danger of transmissibility of the delta variant,” said Jurie Roux, CEO of SA Rugby.
“The priority is to maintain the integrity of the Test series and we will continue to focus on that.”
Warren Gatland’s tourists beat the Sigma Lions last week in their first match in South Africa and are due to face the Sharks this evening.
They also beat Japan in a pre-tour clash at Murrayfield, a fixture that saw captain Alun Wyn Jones ruled out of the tour with a shoulder injury. Conor Murray has replaced him as skipper.
Rescheduling the match against the Bulls has not been ruled out but the tight schedule makes that challenging.
The Lions tour is going ahead despite concerns about the feasibility and safety of the trip and the eight matches scheduled.
Ticket revenue for the Lions games is estimated to be worth £40m to SA Rugby, which like most sports bodies has seen income collapse during the pandemic.
The broadcast contract with Sky Sports, meanwhile, is reported to be worth £10m.