By Mark Gleeson
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - The British & Irish Lions player who tested positive on Wednesday before the game against the Sharks, and was isolated along with six close contacts, has now proven to be negative in a boost for the beleaguered tour, Lions managing director Ben Calveley said on Thursday.
But the player, who the Lions have not identified, would need to pass another test on Friday before he and his close contacts are released from self isolation and become available to play in the hurriedly rescheduled fixture again against the Sharks in Pretoria on Saturday.
The game will only go ahead if the negative return is confirmed otherwise the Lions would not have enough backline players to fulfil the fixture after a majority were sidelined ahead of Wednesday’s 54-7 win over the Sharks at Ellis Park.
Tour captain Conor Murray, Dan Biggar, Gareth Davies, Chris Harris, Stuart Hogg, Anthony Watson and Liam Williams had all been in Wednesday’s matchday squad but were withdraw along with forward Tadhg Beirne - identifying them as among those affected by the COVID scare.
It was a day of drama for the Lions, starting with a positive test for a management member. That has since been confirmed as a COVID-19 case and he, as well as four close contacts are isolating.
Two of them are players, but their identities were not revealed, and the time they will have to self-isolate remains to be decided by the medical advisory group dealing with COVID-19 issue for the tour, Calveley added.
He also confirmed that not all tour party members had received a double dose of the vaccine before traveling to South Africa but declined to explain why.
“All I’m prepared to say on the matter is that the vast majority of the tour party have been double jabbed,” he told a news conference on Thursday.
Calveley said the Lions, who are all being tested again on Friday, were determined to make the tour to South Africa work despite the challenges of the COVID outbreaks in a country under a severe lockdown due to a surge in a third wave of infections.
“We are taking it one day at a time,” he added.
Earlier on Thursday, it was announced the Lions would have a game on Saturday after all, with the Sharks replacing the Bulls as their opponents at Loftus Versfeld.
The Bulls were unable to field a team because of COVID cases in their camp so the Sharks have agreed to another clash with the Lions.
(Reporting by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Ken Ferris)