Warren Gatland turns down idea of Lions facing South Africa 'A' twice

Warren Gatland turns down Rassie Erasmus' call for fixture change
Warren Gatland turns down Rassie Erasmus' call for fixture change

British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland has played down the idea of facing South Africa 'A' side for the second time in the week.

The Lions will line up against the South Africa A side on Wednesday in Cape Town and the Springboks director of rugby Rassie Erasmus proposed the idea of the two sides meeting once again on Saturday instead of Stormers considering the current Covid restrictions.

The idea from Erasmus follows after the Lions went on to face Sharks twice last week after their fixture against Bulls was postponed due to Covid-19.

“If we play a game against a team like the Sharks, the chances of infection are as good as we had when we played Georgia,” Erasmus said.

“We’ve been tested negative two days in a row now. We are in a totally hard bubble, we are moving nowhere. Everybody is negative. The British and Irish squad is negative.

“If the two of us can play the ‘A’ game on Wednesday and play another one on Saturday, I think medically, on player welfare grounds and also for the spectators, it would be wonderful. We would have two good match-ups.

“I’m sure Warren and the guys wouldn’t be afraid or scared or say no to that. I’m going to beg until we find really valid medical reasons why that is not the safest option.

“It would give us the best preparation to be good competition for the Lions – and I’m sure Warren would want us to be at full strength and have good match fitness before we play them in the first Test match. I can’t say I’m confident – I’m hoping.”

The South Africa A side have 18 players from the World Cup winning Springboks team in 2019 with Lukhanyo Am leading them and Gatland was surprised by the squad announcement.

“We won’t be playing them again on Saturday," affirmed Gatland.

“They’ve gone as strong as they possibly can given that they still have some players unavailable. It’s going to be a good test for us,” Gatland said.

“I probably wasn’t expecting them to be as strong as they are. They’re obviously short of games. They feel like they’re underdone and they’ll need a hit out or two.

“It helps our preparation immensely. We’ll get a bit of a feel of where we are and what things we need to work on in the 10 days leading into the first Test.”