South African sport in chaos as new COVID variant threatens rugby, golf, cricket trips

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South African sport faced a shutdown on Friday due to the discovery of a new coronavirus variant in which British rugby teams struggled to leave before travel restrictions were imposed and the first event of the golf’s new DP World Tour is threatened.

Four rugby teams were to play against South African opposition in the United Rugby Championship (URC), but Welsh clubs Cardiff and Scarlets said they were looking to travel as Britain prepares to impose travel restrictions from 1200 GMT on Friday.

“As the situation in South Africa has changed so rapidly, we are now seeking to repatriate our staff ASAP,” Cardiff said on Twitter.

“For concerned families and friends, you can be assured that our focus is on ensuring the safety and well-being of our people and will keep you updated with any developments.”

The Scarlets said they were also trying to leave as soon as possible.

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

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

There were no words about the plans for the Irish club Munster, which was to meet the Bulls in Pretoria on Saturday, or the Italian Zebre, in Cape Town to meet the Stormers.

They are the first clubs to arrive in South Africa since the start of the pandemic, and the postponement of matches will come as a major blow to the newly launched tournament involving teams from South Africa, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales.

The first round of the golf’s Joburg Open was resumed at. 06.00 (04.00 GMT) on Friday after a thunderstorm brought an early end to the game on Thursday.

The second round started at 7, but by that time, 15 British and Irish golfers had already retired.

The event is the first on the schedule for the DP World Tour, formerly the European Tour.

On Friday, South Africa will 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 learned of any development related to the impact of the new variant on the inbound international matches,” Cricket South Africa told Reuters on Friday.

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

South Africa will also host India next month and this trip is expected to be a huge blessing for Cricket South Africa’s coffers. India will play three tests during December and January followed by a limited overs series.


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