South Africa's first home leg of the United Rugby Championship has been thrown into disarray after the two Welsh sides currently in the country, Cardiff Blues and Scarlets, announced that they are scrambling to get flights back into the UK.
The British government on Thursday announced that it was temporarily banning all flights from several southern African countries due to the identification of the new Covid variant.
The suspension is due to come into effect by 14:00 local time.
Cardiff, who play the Lions at Ellis Park on Sunday, stated in a post on social media that it was "looking to repatriate our staff ASAP", while the Scarlets - the Sharks' opponents on Saturday - similarly said: "We are making every effort to get our touring party back home to the UK as soon as possible."
The rush is due to uncertainty over a stipulation that anyone who's been in the relevant countries over the past 10 days won't be able to enter the UK.
Following the news of a new COVID-19 variant in South Africa, Scarlets would like to assure families and friends that we are making every effort to get our touring party back home to the UK as soon as possible. We will provide further updates as soon as we can.— Scarlets Rugby (@scarlets_rugby) November 26, 2021
With the situation in South Africa having changed so quickly, we are now looking to repatriate our staff ASAP. 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.— Cardiff Rugby (@Cardiff_Rugby) November 25, 2021
Furthermore, should the teams get back in time, they'll have to quarantine in designated hotels from Monday.
There have been no indications yet what the plans of Munster and Benneton, who face the Bulls and Stormers respectively, are.
SA Rugby and the United Rugby Championship are also yet to make official comments on the situation.
While only two rounds were planned to be played, it will now be a scramble to re-schedule the fixtures should they be postponed given the congested calendar for the rest of the season.
Local franchises will bemoan the further loss of match-day revenue as government regulations currently allow for 2 000 spectators to attend.