Lions face Covid-19 crisis ahead of Cheetahs Super Rugby Unlocked clash

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JOHANNESBURG -The Emirates Lions have become the first team to battle the spectre of Covid-19 during the current Super Rugby Unlocked campaign after the union revealed yesterday that four of their players have tested positive for the virus.

It was not immediately apparent who the four players are who have tested positive for the virus, but a clearer picture should present itself on Thursday when the team announce their matchday squad to face the Cheetahs.

The Lions are not alone in their concern: during pre-season a “small number” of tests were returned as positive at the Sharks at the beginning of September.

Abroad, the English Rugby Premiership will be seemingly contested by Bristol first-placed Exeter and third-placed Bristol after finalist Wasps confirmed that at least seven of their players have tested positive for Covid-19.

The unidentified players have been removed from the squad with immediate effect and are all asymptomatic, a media statement from the Lions read.

The statement continued that, despite the setback, the team was still preparing for their clash against the Cheetahs this weekend in Round 3 of Super Rugby Unlocked on Saturday afternoon.

Another round of tests will be done before the fixture.

The Lions have already lost Willem Alberts due to the Covid-19 concerns. Last week, the former Springbok withdrew from the team to enter self-isolation after coming into close contact with a positive case.

The ‘Bone Collector’ is likely to miss Saturday’s encounter, and possibly also next weekend’s match against the Griquas, as he completes his quarantine period.

It was not immediately apparent who the four players are who have tested positive for the virus, but a clearer picture should present itself on Thursday when the team announce their matchday squad to face the Cheetahs.

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The Lions have already lost Willem Alberts due to the Covid-19 concerns. Picture: Karen Sandison/African News Agency(ANA)

Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen has thus far not had to deal with many injury concerns or player unavailability. Only scrumhalf Dillon Smit has been fouled after sustaining a dislocated shoulder which has sidelined him for at least four months, while the aforementioned precaution of Alberts was more a minor annoyance than an actual impediment to his and the team’s gameplan.

The Cheetahs, meanwhile, revealed earlier this week that former Springbok and their captain Ruan Pienaar will miss this weekend’s match and quite possibly the rest of the season after injuring his medial cruciate ligament (knee) in last Friday’s match against the Bulls.

@FreemanZAR

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