URC postpones next two rounds of matches in South Africa over coronavirus fears

·2-min read

The next two rounds of URC games to be played in South Africa have been postponed after the country was added to the UK Government’s red travel list.

A new coronavirus variant has been discovered and South Africa is one of six countries to be added to the list by UK officials.

The URC has responded accordingly, with the weekend games between Stormers and Zebre, Sharks and Scarlets, Bulls and Munster and Lions and Cardiff Blues all called off.

“The safety and well-being of our participating clubs’ players, coaches and support staff and match officials is the foremost priority and the URC is currently working with the four visiting clubs – Cardiff Rugby, Munster Rugby, Scarlets and Zebre Parma – to facilitate their return as soon as possible,” a statement from URC said.

“This decision is based upon the latest guidance against non-essential travel to and from South Africa, the ban on direct flights to the UK and other home destinations and the potential hotel quarantines enforced upon those returning from South Africa.

“As has been the operating practice throughout the pandemic, the URC will continue engaging with our Medical Advisory Group, our union shareholders and respective governments to plan according to the latest health guidelines.

“A period of assessment will now be required to better understand the impact of these new travel restrictions and how to reschedule these games within the current season. Given the nature and speed of these developments URC will provide further updates at the appropriate time through official channels only.”

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said on Friday the UK was “buying time” by adding South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Namibia to its travel red list, adding that the Government was taking a “safety-first approach” over the B.1.1.529 variant.

The European Tour – now known as the DP World Tour – has just commenced a three-week swing of events in South Africa and there were numerous withdrawals from the Joburg Open.

Englishmen Oliver Fisher, Steven Brown, Richard McEvoy, Matthew Jordan, Andrew Wilson, Matt Ford and Graeme Storm, Scots Richie Ramsay, Liam Johnston and Craig Howie, Northern Ireland’s Jonathan Caldwell and Cormac Sharvin and Welshman Oliver Farr, all pulled out of the tournament before the second round commenced on Friday, along with Irish pair Niall Kearney and Paul Dunne.

Following an afternoon weather delay of two and a half hours, the DP World Tour announced that the Joburg Open would become a 54-hole tournament and finish on Saturday, with next week’s SA Open in Sun City taking place solely as a Sunshine Tour event with a reduced prize fund of 500,000 US dollars.

The Alfred Dunhill Championship, which was scheduled to be played at Leopard Creek Country Club from December 9-12, has been cancelled after after lengthy consultations with the tournament sponsors.

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