All three tests between the world champions South Africa and the British & Irish Lions will be held in Cape Town, officials confirmed on Tuesday, who expect a return to the Highveld to be very risky.
The second and third tests in the series were supposed to take place in Johannesburg, but with South Africa experiencing a third wave of COVID-19 infections fueled by high numbers in Gauteng Province, it was decided to stay in Cape Town beyond the first Saturday Check.
“The data was only pointing in one direction,” Jurie Roux, CEO of South Africa Rugby, said in a statement.
“The series has already been severely disrupted by COVID-19 and returning to Gauteng at this point would only increase the risks.
“We now have two teams in biosafe environments with no positive cases or isolated people. A return to highveld would put the series at renewed risk.”
Ben Calveley, executive director of the British & Irish Lions, said they were completely in agreement.
“We fully support this decision, which we believe is in the best interests of the test suite,” he said.
All three tests are played in front of empty stands with South Africa in Level 4 Lockdown, its second hardest category.
The springboks were hardest hit by COVID-19 cases, as 14 players and six staff, including coach Jacques Nienaber, contracted the virus.
Most are now infection free ahead of the first test at Cape Town Stadium this weekend, and Springboks hooker Bongi Mbonambi said they were confident they could succeed despite their lack of playing time.
“We’re a little at a disadvantage in terms of playing time against top-notch rugby teams, but it’s one of the realities of COVID,” he told reporters.
“But we’re working hard on the training ground and doing our Lions video analysis. We’ve done as much as we can on the training ground to make sure we are ready and able to field on Saturday.”