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The British and Irish Lions are expected to play the Cell C Sharks for the second time this week on Saturday at 5 pm Irish time.
The two sides lined up against each other on Wednesday night in a one-sided affair that saw Warren Gatland’s touring side run out 54-7 winners in Ellis Park.
SA Rugby and the Lions have agreed to replace the Vodacom Bulls with the Cell C Sharks at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday (kick-off 18h00 SAT, 17h00 BST), after the former was ruled out because of COVID-19 infections.
The Lions beat the Cell C Sharks 54-7 at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg on Wednesday in the second match of the Castle Lager Lions Series. The tourists had opened their account at the same venue with a 56-14 victory over the Sigma Lions on Saturday.
“The choice of the Cell C Sharks was dictated by the fact that they have been in a bubble, have returned negative tests throughout and were prepared to take on the fixture,” said Jurie Roux, CEO of SA Rugby.
“No other team in the country could meet those conditions right now – without going into a five-day lockdown. It is not an ideal situation, but COVID-19 has made sure that we do not live in an ideal world.”
The change has meant that the Cell C Sharks’ match against the Sigma Lions in the Carling Currie Cup on Saturday has been cancelled with a decision on the points allocation to be confirmed.
“We’re very grateful to the Sharks for agreeing to play us again this Saturday at Loftus Versfeld,” said Lions managing director Ben Calveley.
“We have further COVID-19 testing scheduled for today and tomorrow. The results of those tests will determine whether we will be able fulfil this fixture, but, as it stands, we are optimistic.
“We remain committed to the Tour in South Africa and determined to rise to the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The possibility of the second game against the Sharks going ahead is subject to PCR test results from the squads.
The Lions, who put eight tries past the Sharks in their recent game, will undergo testing today and tomorrow but expect to be able to play at the weekend.
The story of the Lions’ tour to South Africa has been big wins and positive cases so far, with the South African national team having to cancel their second test against Georgia because of cases in both camps.
Their first match ended in a convincing 40-9 win after the Springboks snuck into the lead at the end of a tight first half.
South Africa is currently scheduled to field an ‘A’ side against the Lions on Wednesday, July 14th.
It remains to be seen how strong a team the South Africans will be able to field in that fixture.
The Lions will look to another fixture against the Sharks this weekend and are expected to play against the ‘A’ side, as mentioned above, and the DHL Stormers before playing the first test against the Springboks.
With cases in multiple camps and the test only two weeks away, the thought of a three-game test series between the two sides that would be unaffected by COVID-19 gets less convincing by the day.
To see the Lions’ fixture list for the tour, click here.