British and Irish Lions brush aside Covid chaos with 7-54 win over Sharks
The British and Irish Lions have brushed aside Covid chaos surrounding their tour with a 7-54 win over The Sharks.
The match was given the go-ahead less than two hours before kick-off.
The Lions were left scrambling a team together after eight players went into isolation following two positive Covid tests.
Four starters including half-backs Gareth Davies and Dan Biggar and four replacements had to be withdrawn from the matchday squad.
Welshman Louis Rees-Zammit made his mark in the 10 jersey with a try in the second half.
Meanwhile, Josh Adams celebrated his third start in three games and went on to complete a hat-trick. He has now scored eight tries on the tour.
The tour could be in danger of unravelling as the Lions search for new opponents to play on Saturday, after Covid accounted for the Bulls.
The Springboks' clash with Georgia has also been disrupted by the virus.
The Lions have also been affected by multiple injuries, with captain Alun Wyn Jones lasting just seven minutes of the warm-up match against Japan at Murrayfield before a shoulder injury ruled him out of flying to South Africa.
Justin Tipuric suffered the same fate, injuring his shoulder to the extent that he would take no further part in the tour.
How has Covid affected the tour?
Covid outbreaks within several teams have affected weekend fixtures and deepened uncertainty surrounding the tour.
South Africa's entire squad are self-isolating for the second time after 12 positive tests were returned from players and management.
Can the tour still go ahead?
Currently, yes. The Test series between the Lions and Springboks is still 17 days away and while all tour fixtures are crucial, it has been made clear that saving the centre-piece of the event is the priority.
But it has undoubtedly reached crisis point with organisers working on contingency plans knowing that if Covid continues to spread throughout the squads, cancellation becomes a genuine prospect.
Why are the Lions in South Africa?
The original plan of an expedition to South Africa was resurrected after the alternatives of hosting the tour in Australia or the UK or delaying it by a year were rejected.
At the time the hosts were weathering the pandemic well, but their third wave has resulted in a hard lockdown that includes school closures, a curfew, alcohol ban and travel restrictions - all while their health system faces extreme pressure.
What happens next?
The Lions are trying to organise alternative opposition for Saturday, but everything hinges on the extent of their outbreak.
Organisers are hoping to reschedule the Bulls game, but finding space in a packed schedule is the challenge.
Beyond the weekend, the plan to relocate the Lions and South Africa to Cape Town - where the pandemic has less of a foothold - may have to be expedited in the hope of saving the event from collapse.