JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, Jan 18 – World champions South Africa “will do anything” to play the British and Irish Lions, whose eight-match tour in July/August is in doubt because of the coronavirus pandemic, according to rugby director Rassie Erasmus.
“We desperately want to play them and we’ll do anything to play them,” Erasmus said Monday.
“We know this opportunity only comes around in so many years so we don’t want to miss this.”
The last Lions tour to South Africa was in 2009, with the tours by the combined Four Nations of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales held every four years and also alternating with Australia and New Zealand.
“If at the end of the day option A doesn’t work in South Africa and option B is this and option C is this, we will go to option Z,” Erasmus said, amid rumours that the tour could even be moved north and played in Britain and Ireland.
“We don’t want to lose these Lion series. Apart from what it means for commercial reasons, we feel we deserve to play against them. Some players extended their careers to have opportunities like this.
“We will do anything so if the question is put to us, ‘Guys, would you do X, Y and Z’, we don’t care. We will do anything to play that. We will find a solution.”
The Springboks, with Erasmus then as head coach, have not played together since their 32-12 victory over England in the Rugby World Cup final in Japan on November 2, 2019.
They opted to sit out last year’s Rugby Championship “because of player welfare” related to the coronavirus pandemic.
“But we also knew there was a big tournament next year for us and we want to play this,” Erasmus said.
“The frustration is unbelievable for us. We wanted to go and play the Rugby Championship, but this is something we couldn’t do just because it wasn’t possible. We really need the guys to get game time.”
The tour is scheduled to run from July 3-August 7 and features three Test matches between the Boks and the Lions, on July 24 and 31, and August 7.