British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland said the squad was told before the tour to South Africa to expect a couple of Covid cases within their camp and he is still absolutely sure that their Test series with the Springboks will still go ahead.
Gatland said they knew the key to their tour would be their ability to adapt and he believes the squad showed that in highly impressive fashion as they went on to the field at short notice against the Sharks and demolished them 54-7 at Ellis Park on Wednesday night.
The match against the Sharks was only confirmed as going ahead two hours before kickoff following a hectic day of testing and retesting for the Lions after the positive Covid tests for one player and one member of management, plus the isolation of their close contacts.
“I honestly believe we will have the Test series. Obviously there have been a few cases in the Springboks camp and we hope they get everything right in the next couple of weeks so we can have a good Test series,” Gatland said.
“The medics said before we arrived in South Africa that we were likely to pick up a case or two and it will be all about how we deal with it. The last couple of days have been quite surreal and really challenging.
“I’m incredibly proud of how the team adjusted and, more than the result of the match, what I’m really pleased about is the togetherness of the group. My message to the team was ‘let’s use this as a positive, whatever is thrown at us, we can cope, it will not faze us’.
“Faced with potential chaos, we needed to adapt and change, that’s what we did and the players were outstanding.”
Although Gatland has made it clear none of his squad can consider themselves to have booked places in the Test team just yet, lock Iain Henderson, who captained the Lions against the Sharks, said there is no doubt players are taking their opportunities to show the selectors that they are ready to face the Springboks.
“This is an incredibly tight bunch of guys and you can see the team bonds are thriving,” Henderson said.
“Everyone is trying their utmost to put their hand up and the team were able to carry out their roles excellently, even though we are still trying to get our breath at altitude. The scoreboard might not show it, but these have been two very tough games and the players are certainly making it challenging for the selectors.
“The way the guys carried themselves having to play at a moment’s notice, they could have made any number of excuses, but we made sure we kept on track with what we want to do on this tour. To pitch up the way we did after an unbelievably difficult day was great.”