New South African Covid-19 variant unleashes turmoil on country’s sport as rugby and golf stars dash for exit

·2-min read
New South African Covid-19 variant unleashes turmoil on country’s sport as rugby and golf stars dash for exit

The detection of a new Covid-19 variant in South Africa has left the country’s sporting events in turmoil.

Rugby teams scrambled to leave the country before strict travel restrictions were imposed with golf’s new-look DP World Tour also under threat.

The United Rugby Championship (URC) was set to pit Cardiff and the Scarlets against South African teams, but they now must leave the country to return before the UK’s travel ban is imposed midday on Friday.

“With the situation in South Africa having changed so quickly, we are now looking to repatriate our staff ASAP," Cardiff wrote on Twitter.

"For concerned families and friends, please rest assured that our focus is to ensure the safety and welfare of our people and will keep you updated with any developments.”

Scarlets said they too were trying to leave as quickly as possible.

Officials told Reuters on Friday that URC games would be called off, with an announcement expected later.

Cardiff were due to play the Lions in Johannesburg on Sunday while the Scarlets are in Durban to face the Sharks on Saturday.

There was no word on the plans of Irish club Munster, due to meet the Bulls in Pretoria on Saturday, or Italy’s Zebre, in Cape Town to take on the Stormers.

They are the first clubs to arrive in South Africa since the onset of the pandemic and the postponement of fixtures will come as a major blow to the newly launched tournament involving sides from South Africa, Ireland, Itay, Scotland and Wales.

The first round of golf’s Joburg Open resumed on Friday morning after a thunderstorm brought an early end to play on Thursday.

Ross Fisher competing in the Joburg Open on Thursday (Getty Images)
Ross Fisher competing in the Joburg Open on Thursday (Getty Images)

The second round teed off at 7am local time but by then 15 British and Irish golfers had already withdrawn. The event is the first on the schedule of the DP World Tour, formerly the European Tour.

On Friday, South Africa are to host the Netherlands in the first of a three-match One Day International cricket series.

"At this stage of our planning and preparedness, we have not learnt of any developments that relate to the impact of the new variant on the inbound internationals," Cricket South Africa told Reuters on Friday.

"Should there be changes to this, CSA will issue a statement and advice on any planned adjustments."

South Africa are also set to host India next month, with that tour expected to be a major boon to Cricket South Africa's coffers. India are due to play three tests over December and January followed by a limited overs series.

Additional reporting by Reuters.

Read More

What do we know about the new Covid variant and how worried should we be?

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting