Two United Rugby Championship (URC) teams, Irish side Munster and Welsh side Cardiff, will remain in South Africa for the being after both sides reported positive coronavirus tests in their respective squads.
The URC had on Friday announced the postponement of Round 6 and 7 fixtures which were set to take place in South Africa on November 27 and December 3. The fixtures were postponed due to the UK and the European Union placing South Africa on their travel red lists following the emergence of the Omicron COVID-19 variant.
The URC also cited the potential hotel quarantines enforced upon travelers returning from South Africa.
The four fixtures in South Africa slated for November 27 were: Cell C Sharks v Scarlets, Emirates Lions v Cardiff, Vodacom Bulls v Munster and DHL Stormers v Zebre Parma. They were supposed to be the South African sides’ first home games of the season.
Munster said they had returned to their hotel base in Cape Town to isolate following confirmation that one positive result was returned from tests carried out on Saturday. The players and staff are set to undergo another round of PCR testing on Monday with the results from same expected on Tuesday.
“We have one player in a different hotel who is doing as well as possible after receiving a positive PCR result, while the remainder of the group are isolating individually at the team hotel,” Munster head coach Johann van Graan said.
“Work is ongoing with all relevant authorities in securing our return to Ireland at a time when safe and appropriate but for now our priority is to look after our players and staff.”
Cardiff, on the other hand, confirmed that two positive cases of COVID-19 were detected with one of them suspected to be of the new variant. Cardiff had hoped to leave South Africa on Sunday afternoon but the results forced the team to return to their hotel to isolate.
“The club are also continuing to work with all relevant authorities to secure the travelling party’s return to Wales when safe and appropriate,” Cardiff said in a statement.
The B.1.1.529 variant, which is suspected to be more infectious than previous variants of the virus, was first reported to the World Health Organization from South Africa on November 24 and has been identified in some southern African countries, like South Africa and Botswana.
The variant is reported to be responsible for an increased number of coronavirus infections in some countries and has also been detected in nations outside the continent like Belgium, Hong Kong, Italy, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and the UK.
(Story compiled with assistance from wire reports)