South Africa have recorded a further 10 COVID-19 cases, including head coach Jacques Nienaber, while the British and Irish Lions' match with the Bulls has been postponed.

A Lions statement on Tuesday confirmed they were exploring a rescheduling of the match or finding different opponents after five positive tests meant it was "impossible" for the Bulls to field a team.

The Lions' meeting with the Sharks in Johannesburg next Wednesday is set to go ahead as scheduled.

However, the Springboks' match with Georgia next week is also in doubt after Nienaber, five management figures and four players - Marvin Orie, Frans Steyn, Handre Pollard and Frans Malherbe - all returned positive tests.

There were also four cases of the virus within the Georgia team. Jurie Roux, CEO of South Africa Rugby, said the news underlined the problems posed by the Delta variant of the virus, which was first identified in India but has since spread to numerous countries.

"These positive results are a setback and have underlined the danger of transmissibility of the Delta variant," he said.

"The Springboks' second Test against Georgia is now in serious doubt, but we will wait for the MAG to consider the data and we will make the final decision tomorrow [Wednesday].

"The priority is to maintain the integrity of the Test series and we will continue to focus on that."

On Monday, South Africa suspended training and placed their squad in isolation after lock Lood de Jager tested positive for coronavirus.

There had been three further confirmed cases of the virus within the squad on June 27, although they were still able to go ahead with their first warm-up match against Georgia, which ended in a 40-9 victory for the Boks.

It was their first match since winning the World Cup in November 2019.

The first Test with the Lions is due to take place on July 24 in Cape Town, before moving to Johannesburg for the second and third matches.

South Africa suspended training on Monday and again placed their entire squad in isolation after lock Lood de Jager tested positive for coronavirus.

It is the second time the Springboks have been forced to take preventative measures ahead of their upcoming series with the British and Irish Lions.

Vincent Koch, Herschel Jantjies and Sbu Nkosi tested positive for COVID-19 on June 27, though the world champions resumed training and their first warm-up match – a 40-9 victory over Georgia – went ahead as planned last Friday.

However, this Friday's game against the same opponents is now in jeopardy following another positive case, which also raises further questions about the three-match Test series with the Lions.

A statement from SA Rugby on Monday read: "Springbok training has been suspended for Monday following a positive test for COVID-19 in the squad.

"The players have been placed in preventative isolation prior to further PCR testing and a review of the testing data by the Medical Advisory Group (MAG).

"Lood de Jager returned a positive outcome in scheduled testing and, because of his close contact with a number of squad members, the entire group has gone into isolation.

"An update will be issued following the review by the MAG and the further testing."

South Africa's victory over Georgia was their first match since winning the World Cup in November 2019.

Their first Test with the Lions is due to take place on July 24 in Cape Town, before moving to Johannesburg for the second and third matches.

Quinton de Kock and Aiden Markram paved the way for South Africa to claim their first Twenty20 series win since March 2019 as they held off West Indies to secure a 25-run victory.

Having decided to bat first in Grenada, Temba Bavuma's side went on to seal a decisive triumph to round off a 3-2 series success.

De Kock's 60 and Markram's 70 set the tone as the tourists reached 168-4 from 20 overs.

It proved the difference, with Evin Lewis' 52 not enough to inspire the Windies, who also lost the Test series against the Proteas 2-0.

South Africa could hardly have got off to a poorer start, however, with captain Bavuma dismissed on the third delivery of the day.

Yet thanks to the efforts of De Kock – who struck his third straight half-century – and Markram, the Proteas were on 128 by the time they next lost a wicket.

After helping to muster the highest partnership of the series for either side, De Kock picked out Andre Russell off Fidel Edwards' bowling, before Markram, who has now scored 50 or more in four of his last nine T20s, succumbed two overs later.

David Miller added 18 off 16 deliveries to ensure South Africa finished with a flourish.

Lewis went on the attack to get Windies off to a strong start, but by the time he was caught by Markram, the hosts were 75-3, having lost Lendl Simmons and Chris Gayle.

Shimron Hetmyer's 33 included two sixes, but the loss of Kieron Pollard and Andre Russell in swift succession ultimately left the Windies with too much to do, with Nicholas Pooran's dismissal the final blow to their hopes.

DE KOCK LEADS THE WAY

Though Markram was awarded with player of the match, De Kock has enjoyed a brilliant series.

His innings also included four boundaries along with a pair of sixes, while De Kock's total of 225 runs are also the most by a batter in a bilateral series. 

Lungi Ngidi (3-32), was the pick of the bunch from South Africa's bowling attack.

BOUCHER GETS A MONKEY OFF HIS BACK

This was also a huge win for South Africa coach Mark Boucher. The Proteas have hardly had much in the way of consistent success under his coaching unit, albeit the coronavirus pandemic has certainly played a part in that.

Indeed, South Africa were on a five-series losing streak in T20s, but they may just have started to turn things around.

South Africa marked their return to Test action with a commanding 40-9 victory over Georgia at Loftus Versfeld Stadium on Friday.

The Springboks had not competed since winning the Rugby World Cup in November 2019 due to the coronavirus pandemic and initially took time to get going in Pretoria.

But the hosts slowly loosened up on and crossed over six times to make a positive start to preparations for their upcoming three-match Test series with the British and Irish Lions

Aphelele Fassi was one of two players making their debut for the Boks, along with Rosko Specman, and he marked the occasion with the first try inside the opening five minutes from his very first touch.

Georgia had already got on the board by that point through Tedo Abzhandadze's penalty, and the fly-half kicked over twice more before South Africa next registered.

Following a sustained spell of pressure, Bongi Mbonambi went over from the maul to give the home team a platform to build on and they did not look back.

The world champions made the most of their man advantage after Beka Saghinadze was sin-binned as Cobus Reinach gathered a Fassi kick and raced through before half-time.

South Africa had more of a cutting edge to them in the second half, with Kwagga Smith picking up from the base to cross over and Herschel Jantjies doing likewise five minutes later thanks to some smart play from Handre Pollard.

Malcolm Marx was next to dot down following a powerful rolling maul as Jacques Nienaber's side moved through the gears.

The Springboks passed up a couple of promising situations in the remaining 10 minutes, but the damage had already been done as they claimed victory in the first of their two Tests with Georgia ahead of facing the Lions on July 24.

The British and Irish Lions will repeat a feat last achieved back in 1959 if they avoid a series defeat in South Africa.

Warren Gatland's side drew with New Zealand four years ago after a 2-1 triumph in Australia in 2013.

It is 62 years since the Lions were able to avoid defeat in a third consecutive tour and they will have to face the world champions without Alun Wyn Jones, who was replaced as captain by Conor Murray after he suffered a dislocated shoulder in the win over Japan.

Confirmation on Sunday that three members of the Springboks squad have tested positive for coronavirus was a concern before the Lions boarded the plane to South Africa.

They are due to play five tour matches before the first Test against the Springboks at Cape Town Stadium on July 24.

Stats Perform picks out some of the standout Opta numbers for such an eagerly-awaited tour.

 

BOKS TO GO BACK-TO-BACK?

South Africa were 2-1 winners the last time the Lions toured in 2009, but they have not won back-to-back series since coming out on top in 1962 and 1968.

The Springboks have won eight, lost four and tied one of their previous series against the Lions.

South Africa can boast 23 victories to the Lions' 17, with six of the 46 previous showdowns ending in a draw.

There have been alternate winners in the past five series between the Lions and South Africa, a sequence the Lions will be hoping continues.

 

SOUTH-AFRICA-BORN FLYER AMONG DEADLY DEBUTANTS

While the loss of Jones and Justin Tipuric to injury in the win over Japan at Murrayfield were big blows, Gatland will have been encouraged by the performances of his debutants.

Three of the four try-scorers in Edinburgh were making their Lions bows, with Josh Adams, Duhan Van Der Merwe and Tadhg Beirne crossing.

South-Africa born Scotland wing Van der Merwe was the leading try-scorer in the Six Nations this year with six and beat 31 defenders in the tournament, breaking a record set by Brian O'Driscoll.

He can make a big impact against his country of birth along with Adams, the leading try-scorer at the 2019 World Cup with seven.

South Africa must also be wary of Louis Rees-Zammit, the youngest tourist aged 20, after he scored four Six Nations tries and had the most clean breaks (nine) in the competition, also gaining the most metres per carry (9.9m from 27 carries).

Beirne caught the eye against Japan and can play a big part in South Africa. He affected the most turnovers in the Six Nations with nine and was the first man to 87 rucks - the same number as Gregory Alldritt.

 

PASS MASTER MURRAY CAN DICTATE

Murray was surprised to be given the honour of skippering the Lions in the absence of the most-capped player in the history of international rugby.

The Ireland scrum-half has vast experience and can lead by example in his third Lions tour.

Murray has won two, lost two and drawn one of his previous Lions Tests and will look to pull the strings for the tourists.

The 32-year-old pivot has assisted 25 Six Nations tries, eight more than any other player, and holds the record for the most passes in the competition with 3,527. Peter Stringer is next on the list with 2,539.

 

KEY MEN CAN ROAR AGAIN

There were some outstanding performances in the Lions' tour of New Zealand as they drew 1-1 with the All Blacks.

Maro Itoje was among the heroes of that tour and the England lock will embrace the battle with the Springboks. He hit more rucks (162) than any other player in the Six Nations this year and amassed 16 turnovers.

Versatile back Liam Williams made the most metres by a Lions player on the tour in New Zealand four years ago with 344 from six games.

Gatland has been able to rely on Taulupe Faletau time and again over the years. The back-row made the most tackles (76) in New Zealand and beat more defenders (14) than any other forward.

West Indies made it 2-2 in the five-match Twenty20 series against South Africa on Thursday, captain Kieron Pollard top-scoring with 51 and Dwayne Bravo taking four wickets. 

The Windies posted 167-6 and successfully defended the total to ensure everything is still left to play for in Saturday's final match in the T20 series. 

South Africa, who last won a T20 series in March 2019 against Sri Lanka, have not successfully chased a target above 160 since February 2018 when they beat India.

West Indies enjoyed a superb opening over, plundering 20 from the bowling of Aiden Markram – their most in the first over of a T20 and the most by any team batting first in this format.

South Africa responded well to that early setback, however, taking six wickets in the next 15 overs, with George Linde in particularly impressive form, the 29-year-old putting in the most economical performance of his T20 career, conceding just 16 runs in four overs.

The Proteas undermined their efforts in the closing stages as they conceded 66 runs in the final four overs. 

Pollard and Fabian Allen scored six sixes in that period, while the former hit three in three balls off Kagiso Rabada, who bowled his most expensive T20 over.

The impressive Pollard brought up a sixth T20 half-century and his highest score in seven innings as Lungi Ngidi's (0-48) two death overs cost 30 runs. 

Allen suffered what looked like a dislocated shoulder as he tried to cut off a Temba Bavuma sweep as South Africa attempted to start their chase strongly, with his overs made up for by Pollard and Andre Russell. 

Quinton de Kock did his best to drive his team forward, the former captain scoring a second successive half-century (60) and a sixth T20 fifty in his last 15 matches, but no other South Africa batter scored more than 20.

Bravo rolls back the years

Bravo made light of Allen's absence with a superb display. He took the wickets of Linde, de Kock, Tabraiz Shamsi and Ngidi in 12 balls in the closing stages of the match to eventually finish with career-best figures of 4-19.

Rabada sums up Proteas' woes

South Africa's chances of victory collapsed during a dismal final four overs, with Kagiso Rabada particularly generous. His penultimate over of the innings proved to be the most expensive at 25 runs, while he did not complete a full quota of four overs for the first time in a T20 match since his debut in 2014. 

It is nothing new for there to be uncertainty over what to expect for a British and Irish Lions touring party but the class of 2021 are well and truly stepping into the unknown.

Typically all the talk is over selection. Who starts at number 10? What will the make-up of the pack be, who gets the nod as the centre pairing or which wingers will be unleashed in the first Test?

Of course those questions are still to be answered, but when the Lions arrived in Johannesburg on Monday they were not only facing the challenge of trying to secure a starting berth.

A big surge in coronavirus cases has seen South Africa move into a 'level four' lockdown, with travel restrictions, an alcohol ban and an overnight curfew.

As the Lions were preparing to fly out on Sunday, it emerged that Springboks trio Herschel Jantjies, Vincent Koch and Sbu Nkosi had tested positive for COVID-19 - forcing training to be cancelled and the squad going into isolation.

They have since been given the green light to train and are set to face Georgia at Loftus Versfeld Stadium on Friday in their first Test since beating England in the 2019 World Cup final.

A lot of water has gone under the bridge since the drinks flowed as South Africa celebrated lifting the Webb Ellis Cup in Japan and they have a new head coach in Jacques Nienaber.

The world champions have also faced uncertainty, with the possibility of the Lions having home advantage or the series being staged in a neutral country before it was confirmed South Africa will host the tour.

While South Africa know they will not be entering the Lions den, Warren Gatland and his touring party are not certain where they might be heading just under a month before the first Test in Cape Town on July 24.

 

They are set to face a namesake in the Johannesburg-based Lions side, twice runners-up in Super Rugby, on Saturday as one the first of five matches in Gauteng but it is reported they could make further changes to the schedule.

The COVID situation has led to suggestions the entire three-match Test series could be played in Cape Town, with alternations to the fixtures having already been made last month.

Hostile crowds usually await the Lions, but they are set to face the might of the Springboks behind closed doors without an army of travelling fans to roar them on.

They must also go into battle without inspirational leader Alun Wyn Jones, ruled out due to a dislocated shoulder in the win over Japan at Murrayfield along with Wales team-mate Justin Tipuric.

A strong camaraderie will be needed more than ever, with Conor Murray promoted to skipper the side in the absence of stalwart Jones.

But there will be a lack of nights out as they are restricted to bonding in the bubble.

Gatland's men drew 1-1 with then-world champions New Zealand four years ago and can make it three series without defeat next month - a streak that has not been achieved since 1959.

They have the same head coach and key men who starred against the All Blacks, combined with exciting new faces such as South Africa-born wing Duhan van der Merwe and Louis Rees-Zammit.

Gatland may be unsure what challenges the Lions will face on and off the field before the opening Test but the wily New Zealander knows will know what to expect from a formidable South Africa side.

West Indies batsman Nicholas Pooran insists the team can have no excuses for losing the third T20 match against South Africa as they were in a strong position to claim a win.

South Africa won the third encounter between the teams by a single run to take a 2-1 lead in the five-match T20I series.  At 96 for 3, at the halfway mark, chasing 168, the West Indies seemed well on the way to the target but were often stifled by Tabraiz Shamsi who turned in the most economical effort of his career (2 for 13 in four overs).

Even so, needing 44 runs off the last four overs, Andre Russell seemed set to deliver a win for the team when he smashed back-to-back sixes off Anrich Nortje but was dismissed later in the over after also being dropped.

Pooran, who made a pedestrian 26 for 28, and is really yet to fire for the series, smashed Lungi Ngidi over midwicket for six off the second ball of the 18th over but could not maintain that momentum and was dismissed by Nortje in a penultimate over that only cost 4 runs.

“I felt like South Africa bowled well, they bowled well in the middle and they bowled well in the last two overs of the game and I think that’s where they won the game,” Pooran said following the match.

“As a team, we are still building, we are still trying to bind as a team.  I didn’t think it was too bad, in T20 games partnerships form, you lose wickets, but I felt like today was our game to win in all honesty,” he added.

“We had that partnership, I was there until the second to last over with Fabian and we should have found a way to win that game.  No excuses.”

 

South Africa moved 2-1 ahead in the five-match Twenty20 series against West Indies on Tuesday, Kagiso Rabada holding his nerve to clinch a one-run win in Grenada.

Quinton de Kock marked his 50th international appearance in the format by smashing 72 from 51 deliveries, helping the Proteas to post 167-8 - their highest total so far.

Aiden Markram and Rassie van der Dussen contributed 23 and 32 respectively, yet South Africa lost a clatter of wickets in the closing stages.

Obed McCoy claimed two in the penultimate over as he finished with career-best figures of 4-22. There was also a run out to follow in the next, the last of five wickets to go down for the addition of just 20 runs across the final 18 deliveries.

Evin Lewis (27) and new opening partner Lendl Simmons (22) added 51 for the first wicket in West Indies' reply, yet for the second outing in a row they faltered in the face of high-class spin.

Having claimed 1-16 last time out, Tabraiz Shamsi seemingly turned the match in his team's favour by taking 2-13, Lewis and Shimron Hetmyer (17) the batsmen to depart to the left-arm slow bowler.

Andre Russell blasted 25 in a hurry but his departure at the end of an expensive Anrich Nortje over shifted a see-saw contest back in favour of South Africa. Left needing 15 off the last, West Indies came up just short despite a final-ball six from Fabian Allen.


Proteas set the pace thanks to De Kock

De Kock celebrated reaching a personal milestone with a brutal display of hitting, his 51-ball knock at the top of the order including five fours and two sixes. The wicketkeeper-batsman is in impressive form, having now scored 266 runs in his past five T20 innings away from home.

Call of duty needs a reboot

The West Indies have batted second in each of their past 10 T20I meetings with South Africa, winning the toss in all but one of those games. However, the strategic decision may need a rethink before the sides face each other again, as they have gone on to win on just four of those occasions.

 West Indies have named an unchanged 13-member squad for the third CG Insurance T20 International (T20I) against South Africa set for tomorrow at the Grenada National Stadium on Tuesday.

The five-match CG Insurance T20I Series is currently 1-1 after the first two exciting matches of the Series. Two-time World Champions, West Indies won the series opener by eight wickets on Saturday, while South Africa fought back to win the second match by 16 runs on Sunday.

Roger Harper, CWI Chief Selector, said there was no need for change.

"The Selection Panel is happy to retain the same squad for the third CG Insurance T20I. With this series in the balance, we would like to give this squad another opportunity to display how well they can play together,” he said.

“We are aware that there are still a number of T20Is ahead so there will be opportunities for other players going forward.”

This series forms part of the West Indies’ international home season with a total of 15 T20Is as they continue preparations to defend their title at the ICC T20 World Cup to be played later this year.

The full squad: Kieron Pollard (Captain), Nicholas Pooran (Vice-Captain), Fabian Allen, Dwayne Bravo, Fidel Edwards, Andre Fletcher, Chris Gayle, Jason Holder, Evin Lewis, Obed McCoy, Andre Russell, Lendl Simmons, and Kevin Sinclair.

South Africa levelled the five-match Twenty20 series against West Indies at 1-1 as spin played a key role in clinching a 16-run win in Grenada on Sunday.

The Proteas appeared to have failed to capitalise on a strong start with the bat when posting 166-7, only slightly above the total they had been unable to defend in the opening game 24 hours earlier.

West Indies had cruised to an eight-wicket victory on Saturday, but this time around they were bamboozled by South Africa's slow bowlers, George Linde (2-19) and Tabraiz Shamsi (1-16) taking 3-35 from their eight overs combined.

Fabian Allen's late onslaught – the all-rounder smashed 34 off just 12 deliveries – kept his team in with a slender chance, but even three sixes off Lungi Ngidi (1-49) in the 20th over were not enough. The innings finished at 150-9, in the process ending West Indies' two-match winning run in the format.

 

South Africa had appeared on course to set a more challenging target when openers Reeza Hendricks and Quinton de Kock (26) put on 73, the stand coming to an end when the latter fell to Kevin Sinclair (2-23).

Captain Temba Bavuma (46) continued the good work of the first-wicket pairing as the tourists reached the midway stage on 95-1, yet they lost their way in the second half of the innings.

The miserly Sinclair accounted for Hendricks, who made 42, and the promise of a late push was curtailed by regular wickets, the Proteas slipping from 122-3 as Obed McCoy (3-25) excelled with the ball at the death.

The real McCoy? Absolutely!

Left-arm seamer McCoy returned his best T20 figures in international cricket, aided by going for just three runs in the 20th over. His back-of-the-hand slower ball accounted for both Heinrich Klaasen and Linde as South Africa slumped down the stretch, albeit the stuttering finish did not cost them in the end.

Allen just Fab, but still not enough

Andre Fletcher did make 35, but the opener used up 36 deliveries in the process of top scoring for West Indies. In contrast, Allen rushed along at a stunning strike-rate of 283.33 runs per 100 balls. His late cameo included five sixes but Ngidi got him in the end, trapped lbw by a yorker from the penultimate ball.

South Africa Rugby has announced the entire Springboks squad is self-isolating after three players tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of the Test series against the British and Irish Lions.

Following the discovery of the trio of cases during PCR testing in Johannesburg, the reigning world champions announced the cancellation of a planned training session on Sunday.

Team management will consult with medical experts before deciding what steps to take next, with the isolation of players and staff coming just as the Lions prepare to fly out from Edinburgh.

"The Springboks cancelled Sunday's planned training session in Johannesburg as a precautionary measure when scheduled testing protocols returned three positive COVID-19 test results when the team assembled on Saturday," a statement read.

"Three players tested positive for the virus following stringent real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing procedures on arrival at the team base.

"Team management immediately put the squad into self-isolation as a precaution until specialist medical advice is sought from the medical advisory group (MAG).

"A decision on further team activities will be made shortly.

"Director of rugby Rassie Erasmus emphasised that the team had followed all the necessary precautions since the start of the three-week conditioning camp hosted in Bloemfontein, which included mandatory COVID-19 testing three times a week, and that they would be led by specialist advice before any action is taken."

 

The Lions have had problems to deal with before departing for South Africa, captain Alun Wyn Jones suffering a dislocated shoulder during the warm-up win over Japan on Saturday that will see him miss the entire trip.

Fellow Wales international Justin Tipuric is another to be ruled out following the 28-10 victory at Murrayfield, with head coach Warren Gatland calling up Adam Beard and Josh Navidi as replacements.

Conor Murray, meanwhile, is to take over the captaincy duties in the absence of Jones, who was set to lead the squad on his fourth tour with the Lions.

The three-match Test series against the Springboks begins at Cape Town Stadium on July 24.

West Indies opener Evin Lewis believes it was important for the team to get off to a good start against South Africa, on the back of a convincing eight-wicket win on Saturday.

Lewis himself played the role of destroyer in chief as he smashed a whirlwind 71off 35 balls.  The knock included a massive 7 sixes and 4 fours, as he quickly put to bed any notion of South Africa dominating the T20 series the way they had the Test series.

“The most important thing was for us as openers was to have a good start.  We went out there and got a good start with the first six and we pushed on to win the game,” Lewis said following the match.

The batsman who was caught by David Miller at long-off, off the bowling of Tabraiz Shamsi, admits it was somewhat disappointing to miss out on scoring a third T20 international century.

“At the end of the day, my goal was to get the team off to a good start and push on from there.  Actually, I was thinking about batting as deep as possible, probably coming not out, getting a 100, but I look at the bigger picture of the team winning rather than scoring a 100 and the team loses.”

Conor Murray has been named as the British and Irish Lions captain for the upcoming tour of South Africa after injury ruled out Alun Wyn Jones.

Jones was ruled out of the tour, along with Justin Tipuric, on Saturday after he sustained a shoulder injury in the Lions' 28-10 win over Japan.

Irish scrum-half Murray, 32, has been handed the captaincy, with Lions head coach Warren Gatland bullish about his capability in Jones' absence.

"We’re all incredibly disappointed for Alun Wyn and Justin," Gatland said. "The timing of these injuries seem particularly cruel given we fly to South Africa tomorrow [Sunday], but unfortunately they’re part of the game.

"Alun Wyn will obviously be a big loss, both on and off the field, but will be ably replaced by Conor.

"Conor is an outstanding rugby player and is held in the highest regard with both the players and coaches.

"As a three-time Lions tourist, he knows what will be required as captain and I am certain he will lead the squad with excellence. He will also be well supported by an experienced leadership group."

Adam Beard and Josh Navidi have been added to the Lions squad to replace Jones and Tipuric.

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