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Lions could play Stormers on Wednesday with uncertainty over Boks camp

Robbie Henshaw is close to a return from his hamstring strain.

Lions head coach Warren Gatland.
Lions head coach Warren Gatland.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

THE LIONS COULD play the Stormers on Wednesday with uncertainty remaining over the Springboks camp after their Covid-19 outbreak this week.

Warren Gatland’s men are currently scheduled to face South Africa A on Wednesday and then play the Stormers next Saturday but those fixtures could be switched.

The South Africa A team is due to be picked from the Springboks squad but they are attempting to deal with their Covid outbreak.

There has been total silence from the Boks camp since earlier this week when they confirmed that they had 12 new positive Covid-19 cases, with their planned fixture against Georgia this evening cancelled as a result.

The Lions have already had one game in their tour postponed. They were due to face the Bulls in Pretoria tomorrow but that game was called off due to a Covid outbreak in the Bulls’ squad.

Gatland’s side will instead face the Sharks for the second time in four days, having hammered them 54-7 on Wednesday.

As for next week, the Lions are still not certain about the schedule.

“We’re not 100%, it will be either the Springboks [South Africa A] or the Stormers,” said Gatland when asked who the Lions will play on Wednesday. “They might switch those games around.

“That hasn’t been confirmed but hopefully in the next 24 hours, we’ll know which way those games go.

rassie-erasmus-during-the-warm-up The Springboks have been dealing with a Covid outbreak. Source: Craig Mercer/INPHO

“That’s what we’re sort of faced with at the moment, we’re not 100% sure who the opposition is going to be next week, so it’s a little bit difficult to plan too far ahead. But that’s kind of the challenge.

“You can only have an influence on the things you can change and we’ve talked about being adaptable and being able to change, and we think we’ve done that successfully.”

Either way, the Lions will move to Cape Town on Sunday for their next three games and probably for the rest of the tour.

Gatland confirmed that plans are almost completed to have the entire Test series played in Cape Town, rather than returning to Johannesburg – the epicentre of the third wave of Covid in South Africa – for the second and third Tests.

Given the challenge of altitude in Johannesburg, all three Tests being in Cape Town will be a big boost for the Lions.

“I’m not 100% sure, but I’m pretty sure they’ll be played in Cape Town,” said Gatland.

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“So, that hasn’t been 100% confirmed. That’s my understanding at the moment, but until they give us 100% confirmation we just have to wait and see. I think they’re definitely going to be in Cape Town.

“The way we’ve been working and training, if we play the three Tests at sea level it’s a real positive for us.”

robbie-henshaw-172021 Henshaw is making good progress. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Meanwhile, Gatland confirmed that Ireland centre Robbie Henshaw is making excellent progress with his recovery from a hamstring strain, getting through more running at training today.

Henshaw hasn’t featured on the tour of South Africa yet, having played against Japan in Edinburgh, but Gatland said he is nearing a return.

“Robbie thinks he’s ready to go now, so he’s not too far away,” said Gatland. “Whether that’s next Wednesday he gets a run or the next weekend, but he’s up and running and hopefully he’ll start doing more stuff over the weekend.

“We’ll make a decision on Sunday whether that’s him being involved on Wednesday or next weekend.”

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