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'I honestly believe that we will see a Test series' - Lions boss Gatland

The Lions boss was proud of his players after a very challenging day.

Gatland and Lions assistant coach Steve Tandy.
Gatland and Lions assistant coach Steve Tandy.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

LIONS HEAD COACH Warren Gatland said he “absolutely” believes the Test series against the Springboks will go ahead as planned despite both set-ups being hit by Covid-19.

The Lions reported two positive cases today but still played the Sharks in Johannesburg this evening, scoring eight tries in a 54-7 victory.

Meanwhile, the Springboks have had to suspend training this week, go into isolation, and cancel their fixture against Georgia on Friday due to 12 new positive cases in their set-up.

With Covid outbreaks in the Georgia squad and the Bulls’ camp – they were due to face the Lions on Saturday but that game has been postponed – there are doubts over the ongoing viability of a rugby tour in South Africa amidst the country’s third wave of Covid.

But Gatland reiterated his belief that the Test series, which is due to begin on 24 July, will still go ahead.

“Absolutely, I honestly believe that we will see a Test series,” said Gatland. “We spoke beforehand and our medics said that being in South Africa, it was likely we were going to get a case or two. It’s just about how we deal with it.

“The players have been incredibly vigilant. South Africa are probably in a worse situation. We’ve got a couple of weeks to hopefully get everyone right so that we can have a good Test series, while making sure we’re safe and secure in our bubbles.

“That’s definitely what we’ve been trying to do. We’re not sure where we’ve picked these cases up from – whether that was through hotel staff or some people passing by at the matches.

ali-price-celebrates-after-scoring-a-try-with-chris-harris The Lions hammered the Sharks this evening. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“I’m not 100% sure. As far as we’re concerned, we’re preparing and looking forward to a Test series.”

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Gatland said today had been hugely demanding for the Lions given the sheer uncertainty as they waited on results from their latest round of PCR and lateral flow testing.

“It’s been a real challenge considering the players and staff were in our rooms until 6pm and we didn’t get our results until 5.30pm and we had to make a few changes,” said Gatland.

“I am incredibly proud of the result and performance and how much the guys wanted to go out and wear that jersey. My message to the players was to use it as a positive. Nothing was going to faze us.

“We talked about situations of chaos and being able to adapt and to change and that is what we did. The players were outstanding.”

The Lions head coach also said that one of the positive Covid cases in the group was “a very, very weak positive” and that they were hopeful re-testing tomorrow would clear that person of Covid, also meaning their close contacts could emerge from isolation.

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Murray Kinsella

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