Springboks suspend training after another virus infection

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JOHANNESBURG — Another player in the South Africa rugby squad tested positive for the coronavirus, forcing the Springboks to cancel a training session on Monday.

Lock Lood de Jager returned the positive test and the entire squad of nearly 50 players was put into isolation because de Jager had been in close contact with “a number of squad members,” SA Rugby said.

It’s the second time in just over a week that the Springboks have had positive tests in their squad.

Prop Vincent Koch, scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies and wing Sbu Nkosi all tested positive on June 26 when the players assembled in Johannesburg to begin preparations for the British and Irish Lions series. The team was also forced into isolation on that occasion and canceled a training session on June 27.

Jantjies was later cleared and played in South Africa’s win over Georgia on Friday in the first of two tests that will serve as the Springboks’ warmup for the Lions series.

De Jager, Koch and Nkosi didn’t feature in the first test against Georgia in Pretoria. De Jager and Koch had recently traveled to South Africa from Britain, where they play club rugby.

South Africa is due to play a second test against Georgia this Friday in Johannesburg. The three-test series against the Lions starts on July 24.

SA Rugby said it would give an update once a medical advisory group put in place for the Lions tour specifically to deal with COVID-19 issues reviewed de Jager’s case.

South Africa is in the grip of a third wave of the virus and recorded more than 26,000 new cases on Saturday, the country’s highest daily count in the pandemic.

South Africa and the Lions surprisingly decided to go ahead with the six-week tour despite expectations that it would be postponed or moved to another country because of the pandemic.

The Lions did alter their schedule because of the virus and will play seven of their eight games in Johannesburg and Cape Town to minimize their travel.

The British and Irish Lions opened their tour with a 56-14 win over South African domestic team the Lions at Ellis Park on Saturday. They will play their second game against the Durban-based Sharks, also at Ellis Park, on Wednesday.

No fans are allowed to attend any sports events in South Africa because of the virus.

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Gerald Imray, The Associated Press

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