South African sport in chaos as new variant of COVID threatens rugby, golf and cricket tours
South African sport was shut down on Friday due to the detection of a new variant of the coronavirus, with British rugby teams rushing to leave before travel restrictions were imposed, and the first event in the new look of golf DP World Tour threatened.
Four rugby teams were due to face South African opposition at the United Rugby Championship (URC), but Welsh clubs Cardiff and Scarlets have said they look to leave as Britain prepares to impose restrictions on travel from 12:00 GMT on Friday.
“With the situation in South Africa having changed so quickly, we are now looking to repatriate our staff as soon as possible,” Cardiff said on Twitter.
“For the families and friends concerned, please rest assured that our goal is to ensure the safety and well-being of our people and we will keep you informed of any developments.”
Scarlets said they too were trying to get out as quickly as possible.
Officials told Reuters on Friday that the RCU matches would be canceled, with an announcement expected later.
Cardiff was due to face the Lions in Johannesburg on Sunday while the Scarlets are in Durban to face the Sharks on Saturday.
There was no word on plans for Irish club Munster, who were due to meet the Bulls in Pretoria on Saturday, or Italy’s Zebre, in Cape Town to face the Stormers.
They are the first clubs to arrive in South Africa since the start of the pandemic and the postponement of fixtures will be a blow to the newly launched tournament involving teams from South Africa, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales.
The first round of the Joburg Open Golf resumed at 6:00 a.m. (04:00 GMT) on Friday after a thunderstorm brought play to an early end on Thursday.
The second round started at 7 a.m., but by then 15 British and Irish golfers had already retired.
The event is the first on the program of the DP World Tour, formerly European Tour.
South Africa will host the Netherlands on Friday in the first of a series of three One Day international cricket matches.
“At this point in our planning and preparation, we have not heard of any developments regarding the impact of the new variant on incoming internationals,” Cricket South Africa told Reuters on Friday.
“If there is a change, CSA will issue a statement and advice on any planned adjustments.”
South Africa is also set to host India next month, with this tour set to be a major boon for Cricket South Africa’s coffers. India is expected to play three tests in December and January, followed by a limited series of overs.