Round three of the Currie Cup delivered some thrilling rugby action over the weekend, with the Sharks edging the Bulls in Durban and important wins for the Lions and Western Province.
In the early Saturday afternoon game played in Durban, the Sharks defeated log leaders Bulls 32-29 in an exciting clash, with flyhalf Morné Steyn missing with a late penalty attempt to level the scores.
Following last weekend’s win over the Western Province in Johannesburg, the Lions made it two in a row with their comfortable 39-23 bonus point-win over hosts Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.
The WP shrugged off two previous losses courtesy of their 28-14 bonus-point triumph over the Pumas in Cape Town on Friday night. The Griquas had a bye this weekend.
Despite their three-point loss in Durban, the men from Pretoria still lead the log standings on 33 points from nine outings, although they have played one more game than the second-placed Sharks (28).
The Lions outscored hosts Cheetahs by five tries to two in their 39-23 bonus-point win in the third round encounter played in Bloemfontein on Saturday afternoon.
The Pride of Jozi lead 13-9 at halftime but then turn on the style after the restart to score four more tries to take the game away from the Free State hosts.
This clash was a much-anticipated affair and repeat of the 2019 Carling Currie Cup final, while it also marked the teams’ first match-up this season after their Vodacom Super Unlocked game was cancelled.
The fixture was hastily arranged after the Vodacom Bulls game was postponed because of positive Covid-19 cases in the team.
The Lions beat the Sharks 54-7 in a one-sided fixture but there was no other opposition for them to face. Kick off will be at 6pm and the game will be broadcast live on Supersport.
« SA Rugby and the Lions have agreed to replace the Vodacom Bulls with the Cell C Sharks at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday, after the former was ruled out because of Covid-19 infections, » a Lions release said.
SA Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux said there was no other team that could have faced the Lions.
“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 Ben Calveley, Managing Director for the British & Irish Lions.
“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 Lions wanted the fixture to continue their preparations for the three-test series against the Springboks, who themselves are isolating after a dozen Covid-19 cases in their squad. The Boks had their second test against Georgia cancelled after outbreaks in both the Bok and Georgian teams.
The British and Irish Lions are set to take on Cell C Sharks in a warm-up fixture this evening ahead of Warren Gatland’s team’s upcoming Test series against South Africa, though the fixture is under threat after a member of the Lions’ coaching staff tested positive for coronavirus earlier today.
The Lions said that the individual and four close contacts, including two players and two members of staff, are isolating and being assessed at the team hotel. The positive result came from a lateral flow test as part of the Lions’ tour screening programme today. All members of the touring party have since been PCR-tested.
In a statement, the Lions added that today’s game against the Sharks in Johannesburg will go ahead “provided the subsequent round of PCR testing returns negative results later this afternoon”.
The Lions three-Test series against South Africa is set to begin on 24 July, but there have been multiple setbacks. The Springboks’ scheduled warm-up match against Georgia on Friday has been cancelled due to Covid-19 infections in both camps. The Lions’ scheduled meeting with the Bulls on Sunday has meanwhile been scrapped due to a coronavirus outbreak in the South African side’s camp. In their warm-up games so far, the Lions have beaten Japan 28-10 and Sigma Lions 56-14.
After a four year wait the British and Irish Lions are back on tour in South Africa. Having beaten the Sigma Lions and Cell C Sharks, the Lions were due to play the Vodacom Bulls but that match has been postponed. Instead, Warren Gatland’s men will play the Shark for a second time this Saturday in Pretoria. Kick off is 5pm BST.
The latest team news is that Warren Gatland has made 13 changes. Anthony Watson will make his first start of the British and Irish Lions tour against the Sharks on Saturday. Make sure you know how to watch a British and Irish Lions live stream from anywhere.
The Springboks are in disarray, too. South Africa’s second Test against Georgia has been cancelled, with 11 positive cases in the Springbok camp, including players Frans Steyn, Marvin Orie, Handre Pollard and Frans Malherbe, as well as head coach Jacques Nienaber.
All eight matches of the upcoming 20201 British & Irish Lions Tour will be played in Johannesburg, Pretoria or Cape Town to minimise the risk of any further disruption caused by the pandemic. Fingers crossed for some top-drawer, covid-safe rugby in the run up to the first Test on 24th July.
The Lions lost the Test series 2-1 back in 2009, but following a series draw against New Zealand in 2017, Warren Gatland’s men will have high hopes of repeating their 1997 victory, when big beasts like Martin Johnson, Lawrence Dallaglio and Gregor Townsend endured a brutal tour.
Rugby fans in the US can stream the 2021 British & Irish Lions tour on Peacock TV for only $4.99 a month (you even get a 7-day free trial). Make sure you know how to watch a British and Irish Lions live stream from anywhere in the world.