CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - South Africa are open to “all options” to play the British & Irish Lions and are willing to travel to the United Kingdom to make sure the series goes ahead, director of rugby Rassie Erasmus said on Monday.
The Lions are scheduled to tour South Africa for eight matches between July 3 and Aug. 7 this year, including three tests against the world champion Springboks.
But with all nations involved in the grip of the COVID-19 crises, the series remains in serious doubt in its current form.
A decision is likely to be made next month, but Erasmus says from a Bok point of view they are ready to look at all scenarios to ensure the tests go ahead.
“We desperately want to play and will do anything it takes,” Erasmus told reporters on Monday. “We don’t want to miss this opportunity.
“Whatever we have to do to play that (series)... we sacrificed the Rugby Championship last year for player welfare, but also because we knew we had a big series (against the Lions) the next year.
“If at the end of the day Option A does not work in South Africa, and there are Options B and C... we will go to Option Z.
“We will take any option not to lose it, if it means playing there or next year. Whatever it takes.”
South African Rugby cut 1.2 billion rand ($78.39 million)from its 2020 budget due to COVID-19, which includes some players and staff taking up to 50% pay cuts, and the Lions tour is desperately needed to refill the coffers.
But Erasmus said there was a sporting context too with the Boks having not played a test since they lifted the Rugby World Cup in Japan in November 2019.
“Apart from the commercial reasons, we feel we deserve to play against them (the Lions). I want the opportunity, (head coach) Jacques (Nienaber) wants the opportunity.
“Some players extended their career to have this opportunity. Players stayed in South Africa to play this.
“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 series.
“We will never, ever stop it (from our side) and that is why I think we will find a solution in the end.”
($1 = 15.3079 rand)
Reporting by Nick Said; Editing by Ken Ferris
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