Rugby-South Africa arrange another warm-up game ahead of first Lions test

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Rugby World Cup - Final - England v South Africa
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By Mark Gleeson

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - South Africa will play another warm-up match ahead of their test series against the British & Irish Lions, after fixing a game for Saturday against the Bulls in Cape Town, SA Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus said.

An outbreak of COVID-19, which struck down 13 players over the last fortnight, meant the Springboks played only one of two preparatory tests against Georgia and spent last week self isolating in their rooms.

That prompted them to field most of their World Cup winning team for South Africa 'A' against the Lions in their tour match in Cape Town on Wednesday, but Erasmus said the Springboks needed another game to improve their conditioning before the first test on July 24.

“We are 70-80% there but there is still stuff we have to work on,” he said after Wednesday’s 17-13 victory.

As a result, the Currie Cup champion Bulls have been asked to go into quarantine and if they pass all COVID-19 tests, they will take on the Springboks on Saturday.

The fixture is likely to act as a curtain raiser to the tour match between the Lions and local side Stormers.

The Bulls were supposed to play the Lions in Pretoria last weekend but could not field a team after several positive COVID-19 cases in their camp.

Erasmus, who had hoped for another run out against the Lions, continued to suggest it would be better if the South Africa 'A' side and Lions went head-to-head again this Saturday.

He seems, however, to have accepted that this is not part of the Lions’ planning.

Wednesday’s victory for South Africa 'A' over the Lions went according to the script, said Erasmus.

“We thought we’d get tired in the second half after just two training sessions following five days of sitting in our hotel rooms. Two yellow cards also made it difficult for ourselves. It wasn’t a brilliant game but a tough and physical one and we needed that.”

South Africa still have eight players self-isolating after contracting COVID-19, who are expected to rejoin the squad over the coming days, making it important that there is another match before the first test, Erasmus said.

The Springboks and Lions meet in the first of their three-test series in Cape Town.

(Editing by Toby Davis)

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