Tadhg Beirne admits being forced to self-isolate created a mental challenge as the British and Irish Lions emerged undeterred from one of the most chaotic weeks in their history.
Beirne was among the large group of personnel who were forced to quarantine in the rooms of their Johannesburg hotel on Wednesday following two positive tests for coronavirus.
Forty-eight hours later the close contacts of the player who subsequently produced two negative results were able to rejoin the rest of the touring party.
Beirne had been named on the bench for Wednesday’s victory over the Sharks but had to withdraw upon being told he was among the positive case’s close contacts as the Lions made extensive revisions to the 23.
“Everyone is in the same boat and I would say everyone is finding it difficult at times,” said the Ireland flanker, who returned at six for the 71-31 win in the repeat fixture.
“There’s always going to be a mental challenge. Everyone’s away from their families, we don’t leave the hotel grounds, we don’t see anyone other than ourselves, so they are the challenges everyone has to face.
“But at the same time, we have to be very grateful that we’re able to be here, that we’re in this position.
“We’re very lucky this is going ahead, so it’s easy to overcome those mental challenges when they do pop into your head.”
The Lions faced the greatest upheaval on Wednesday when players picked in the reassembled 23 left their hotel rooms two hours before kick off and scrambled to Emirates Airline Park where they completed a brief warm-up before taking on the Sharks.
Fresh obstacles were presented on Saturday as Maro Itoje and Finn Russell were forced to withdraw through illness and injury respectively shortly before kick-off.
And Beirne, who crossed twice in an outstanding display, admits the players’ over-enthusiasm at leaving the isolation shaped their disappointing start.
“Everything was up in the air. I was changed, bag ready to go, about to walk out the door to get on the bus and I got the phone call saying that I would have to isolate in the room,” Beirne said.
“It was disappointing but it’s the circumstances around at the moment. You have to take it on the chin and thankfully the lads pulled together and managed to put in a serious performance on Wednesday.
Playing the @lionsofficial is a once in 12 year opportunity and our young Cell C Sharks team were fortunate enough to play them twice. Thank you to the touring British and Irish squad for the memories🦈🖤🤍 pic.twitter.com/2zLbt93ZQR
— The Sharks (@TheSharksZA) July 11, 2021
“I had to watch it from the room but very much enjoyed the lads going out there and putting in a serious shift.
“It wasn’t actually until Friday that we got out, I think we needed two negatives on the Thursday and the Friday, so we were isolating until the Friday afternoon. We had a pretty late extended captain’s run on the Friday.
“It was quite up in the air until then and when we got the news, we were all delighted to finally get out of the rooms and we were raring to go.
“You could see that in our captain’s run, lads were probably getting a bit too excited after getting out of isolation for a few days in their rooms.
“It probably didn’t go into the game too well. We didn’t start the way we wanted to but we managed to finish well and that was the main thing.”