Rugby-Caged Lions prepared for lockdown in South Africa

·2-min read

By Nick Said

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - British and Irish Lions assistant coach Robin McBryde says the restrictions placed on the squad by a COVID-19 lockdown in South Africa could create a siege mentality that will be beneficial to the team in their three-test series against the Springboks.

The Lions arrived in South Africa on Monday, just as the country is gripped by a third wave of infections, prompting tightened restrictions, including a 9 p.m. curfew, closure of restaurants and a total ban on the sale of alcohol.

It means the Lions will be largely confined to their team hotel outside of training and matches, forcing the management to think out of the box on how to keep the players entertained.

"We must get the balance right with regards to how much time we spend in each other’s company," Welshman McBryde told reporters on Tuesday.

"It doesn’t all have to be about rugby. There has to be the social side as well. The time we spend together is going to be greater than on other tours, but that allows us to be a little bit more creative.

"It could lead into a siege mentality because when you sacrifice something, you do tend to sell yourself a little bit more to what the cause is.

"We respect that we are lucky that we have been given this opportunity, so now that we are here, let’s make a good fist of it."

McBryde says it is so far so good for the squad, who had a first run out on Tuesday ahead of their opening match on tour against South Africa’s Johannesburg-based Lions franchise at Ellis Park on Saturday. All games will be played behind closed doors.

"We have got our first session under our belt, we are familiar with the hotel and the routine we have to fall into. From here on in it should be, I’m not quite confident enough to say 'plain sailing', because anything could happen really quickly. However, we are comfortable in our surroundings."

South Africa has been the hardest-hit on the African continent in terms of recorded COVID-19 cases and deaths, reported almost 18,000 new cases on Saturday, and approaching the peak of daily infections seen in a second wave in January.

(Reporting by Nick Said; Editing by Hugh Lawson)