By Mark Gleeson CAPE TOWN (Reuters) -South African sport faced a shutdown on Friday due to the detection of a new coronavirus variant, with rugby teams scrambling to leave before travel restrictions are imposed and the first event of golf’s new-look World Tour under threat. Four rugby teams were due to play South African opposition […]
Sport-South Africa sport set for shutdown over new coronavirus variant
By Mark Gleeson
CAPE TOWN (Reuters) -South African sport faced a shutdown on Friday due to the detection of a new coronavirus variant, with rugby teams scrambling to leave before travel restrictions are imposed and the first event of golf’s new-look World Tour under threat.
Four rugby teams were due to play South African opposition in the United Rugby Championship (URC) but Welsh clubs Cardiff and Scarlets said they were looking to leave as Britain prepared to impose travel restrictions on Friday.
Britain said the new variant was of huge concern https://www.reuters.com/world/uk/britain-says-new-covid-19-variant-is-most-significant-yet-found-2021-11-26 and could make vaccines less effective.
“With the situation in South Africa having changed so quickly, we are now looking to repatriate our staff ASAP,” Cardiff said 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, but an announcement had not been made by 1200 GMT.
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, Italy, Scotland and Wales.
The first round of golf’s Joburg Open resumed at 6 a.m. (0400 GMT) on Friday after a thunderstorm brought an early end to play on Thursday.
The second round teed off at 7 a.m. but by then 15 British and Irish golfers had already withdrawn.
South Africa and the Netherlands began the first of a three-match One Day International cricket series in Pretoria on Friday but the two remaining matches on Sunday and Wednesday are likely to be cancelled as EU countries moved to join Britain in banning travellers from Africa.
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 but that is also now in jeopardy.
Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) treasurer Arun Singh Dhumal told Reuters: “We are aware of it and we are working on this. Depending on the situation there, we’ll take a call on the tour.”
(Additional reporting by Nick Said and Amlan Chakraborty; Editing by Peter Rutherford and Giles Elgood)