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'It's an absolute miracle we've got to this point' - a South African take on the Lions tour

Pretoria-based journalist Brenden Nel speaks to Gavan Casey and Ciaran Kennedy ahead of Saturday’s first Test on the latest episode of The Punt.

Updated Jul 22nd 2021, 10:48 PM

Source: The42.ie/YouTube

IT HAS BEEN one setback after another on this British & Irish Lions tour of South Africa. 

The host nation has been hit by a third wave of the pandemic which has wreaked havoc upon the Springboks’ preparation, most of which has taken place against a backdrop of political unrest and violent protests

The tourists, meanwhile, have endured their own Covid disruption, while the series was thrown into further disarray with the cancellation and postponement of warm-up fixtures. 

While there have been growing calls to scrap the whole thing, we’ve reached the eve of the first Test and it is all systems go. 

On the latest episode of The Punt — our monthly show sponsored by William Hill — The42′s Gavan Casey and Ciaran Kennedy are joined by South African journalist Brenden Nel to preview Saturday’s Test, discuss team selections and the omission of Conor Murray, before giving their predictions. 

south-africa-a-v-the-british-and-irish-lions-castle-lager-lions-series-cape-town-stadium Conor Murray in action against South Africa A. Source: PA

“Normally, the Lions Tour would be front and centre but there is so much else going on at the moment and people are being bombarded with things they’ve got to worry about like Covid-19 and other problems in the country,” Nel says. 

“The fact that we don’t have fans in stadiums makes a huge difference. I’ve covered two Lions Tours in my time and that sea of red you meet before the games and out in the pubs is usually great. 

“You have a bit of banter with the guys, talk rugby and about memories of past battles. So it feels very different. 

I’m sitting in my home, we’re not getting close to the players or the teams and it is very strange at the moment.” 

“If you’re talking generally in terms of rugby fans, they welcome the distraction,” he adds. 

“We’ve been dealing with so much else over the last 18 months with the pandemic that distraction is great in a way. 

“The disappointment has probably been that the provincial sides haven’t been that good and they haven’t put up much of a fight.

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“But last week in the South Africa A game, you could feel the tension and the anticipation going up a notch. This week has been the same. 

“There are always going to be people who feel it shouldn’t go ahead and that is understandable given where we are in the world. 

“It is an absolute miracle that we’ve got to this point and that the teams are so determined to see it through.”

This episode of The Punt is also available in audio-only form wherever you get your podcasts.

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