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Bryan Habana Calls For Changes To Lions Schedule Amid Civil Unrest In South Africa

Bryan Habana Calls For Changes To Lions Schedule Amid Civil Unrest In South Africa

So far, the Lions tour has taken place under the cloud of a worsening COVID-19 situation in South Africa, but Springbok legend Bryan Habana has drawn attention to a worsening political situation in the country.

Former South African president Jacob Zuma was this week sentenced to 15-months in prison. The sentence is not actually in relation to the evidence of corruption against him, but rather his refusal to give testimony at a trial against him.

The jailing of Zuma has led to rioting in the capital city of Johannesburg, and in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. Euronews reported 62 arrests across the two areas over the weekend, as looting worsened.

Bryan Habana calls for changes to Lions tour

Appearing on Sky Sports' coverage before the British and Irish Lions took on South Africa A on Wednesday night, former South African winger Bryan Habana addressed the unrest in the country, and suggested some changes to the touring schedule for the Lions.

It's unfortunately not very positive [in South Africa at the moment]. We've seen looting and civil unrest over the last couple of days particularly in KwaZulu-Natal and Johannesburg, so one almost gets the feeling that it's probably the best to move this whole tour down to Cape Town for the last four weeks.

Now this doesn't mean - it might yet down to Cape Town, but it is very subdued, almost a dire situation, a lot of unfortunate situations across the country with moors being burned down. We had a lot of deaths over the last few days.

One also hopes that this game [South Africa A v The Lions] tonight brings a little bit of inspiration, a little bit of hope, a little bit of positivity to some really tough circumstances.

The situation has only been worsened by the continually grim COVID-19 situation in South Africa, and president Cyril Ramaphosa was forced to address the nation for a second consecutive night on Monday after 10 people were killed in the riots in KwaZulu-Natal.

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Bryan Habana has proposed moving the remainder of the Lions tour to Cape Town. Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Sportsfile

Habana was then asked by host Alex Payne whether the Springbok squad would have been affected by the scenes across the country, and whether the situation would have given them an extra unifying drive.

We heard in Chasing the Sun [a documentary about the Boks' 2019 World Cup win] Rassie Erasmus talking about...playing for the Springboks isn't the greatest pressure. Pressure is worrying about where your next meal is coming from.

In situations like the one we're currently facing in South Africa, these players will know the responsibility on their shoulders to come out and do the country proud and hopefully lift that level of positivity.

It's not gonna completely take it away, but I think hopefully for this brief moment in time, we can reflect on all that is good, because there's not much going on around that in South Africa at the moment.

Bryan Habana's words are a powerful reminder that the Lions tour is taking place at a deeply troubling time in South African history.

The decision to push ahead with touring South Africa, rather than hosting the series on home soil or in Australia now seems like an unwise call, and we can only hope that the situation in South Africa doesn't further worsen over the coming weeks.

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Eoin Harrington

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