The Springboks were set to resume training on Sunday, SA Rugby confirmed, after six rounds of Covid-19 testing and a six-day preventative self-isolation period cleared a large group of players to return to the field.
All the players and management who had Covid tests on Saturday returned negative results, which paved the way for the players to train on Sunday.
Four rounds of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing in the last week had delivered new positive cases among the players and three among the team management.
The players who tested positive were Springbok captain Siya Kolisi, Dan du Preez, (both loose forwards), Ox Nché (prop), Bongi Mbonambi, Scarra Ntubeni (both hookers) and Makazole Mapimpi (wing).
With the entire squad and management team confined to their rooms since Monday, however, the possibility of transmission through close contact had been mitigated.
With two hookers among the positive Covid test results, and all the players who tested positive expected to follow strict return-to-play protocols, Sharks hooker Fez Mbatha had been drafted into the squad as cover. Bulls prop Lizo Gqoboka had also been called up as additional prop cover.
SA Rugby director of rugby Rassie Erasmus would take the lead at the field training sessions with assistant coaches Mzwandile Stick, Daan Human and Deon Davids, while Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber continued his self-isolation after testing positive for Covid on Monday.
“We are delighted to be able to return to the field and resume our preparations for the Castle Lager Lions Series,” said Nienaber, who was in good spirits despite being in self-isolation.
“It has been a challenging week with the Test against Georgia cancelled and the entire squad self-isolating for a few days as a preventative measure, so the players cannot wait to get back on the park.
“The Test against Georgia was important for us with an eye on preparing to face the British and Irish Lions, but these are extraordinary times and we have to adapt as a team, and I have to commend the players and management for that.”
The South Africa A team is scheduled to face the British and Irish Lions in Cape Town on Wednesday.
This will be followed by three Test matches against the Lions starting on 24 July.