Warren Gatland expects two Lions Tests to be moved to Cape Town

Warren Gatland
Lions head coach Warren Gatland. Image: © Craig Watson. www.craigwatson.co.uk

LIONS head coach Warren Gatland now expects all three Tests between his team and the Springboks to be played in Cape Town.  

According to the official schedule, the first Test will be played a fortnight today in Cape Town with the next two in Johannesburg on the following two weekends. But, with the Covid situation being particularly severe in Gauteng, the province in which Johannesburg lies, and, with the Lions flying to Cape Town on Sunday, the switch to sea level has begun to seem far safer.

“I’m not 100 per cent sure, but I’m pretty sure that they’ll be played in Cape Town,” Gatland said earlier this evening (Friday). “That hasn’t been 100 per cent confirmed: that is my understanding at the moment, but until they give us 100 per cent confirmation, we just have to wait and see. 

“But I think they’re definitely going to be in Cape Town. The way that we’ve been working in training, if they’re going to play three Tests at sea level I think it’s a real positive for us.”  

There could also be a change to the fixture list next week, according to the coach. After today’s game against the Sharks in Pretoria, the tourists are due to play South Africa ‘A’ on Wednesday then the Stormers a week today, but there is now uncertainty over which order those games will be played in.

“We’re not 100 per cent sure who the opposition is going to be next week, so it’s a little bit difficult to plan too far ahead,” Gatland continued. “It will either be the Springboks [that is, South Africa ‘A’] or the Stormers. They might switch those games around. That hasn’t been confirmed – hopefully in the next 24 hours we’ll know which way those games go.”

The good news is that the Lions’ own Covid problems have cleared up a bit. All the players tested negative today, including the player who tested positive on Wednesday, so he and his close contacts have been cleared to train and play.

But a member of management has been confirmed as a positive case, so five of his close contacts – one player and four other members of staff – are in isolation. The Lions have not identified any of those involved.

Scotland captain Stuart Hogg was one of the players who had to drop out of Wednesday’s first game against the Sharks, and he is not in the squad for today’s rematch either. The full-back had been a doubt with a dead leg, but Gatland did not say whether that was what kept him out or if it was because he was a close contact. “He’s fit,” was all the coach would say.

Ireland centre Robbie Henshaw, who has been out with a hamstring injury, is also fit again, according to Gatland, who said he had been running around.

Provided he does not test positive in the coming days, the player who remains in isolation should be cleared to play against whichever team the Lions end up playing a week today. 

About Stuart Bathgate 1407 Articles
Stuart has been the rugby correspondent for both The Scotsman and The Herald, and was also The Scotsman’s chief sports writer for 14 years from 2000.