Fishing, golf simulators, nasal swabs ... Proteas' unique Covid-19 Christmas

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Proteas training at Centurion (Gallo)
Proteas training at Centurion (Gallo)
  • The Proteas have experienced a unique festive season in isolation preparing for their Test series against Sri Lanka. 
  • Fishing and playing golf on a simulator have been two of the activities to pass the time. 
  • The squad returned another full round of negative test results for the coronavirus on Thursday. 

As skipper Quinton de Kock pointed out during the week, it is not unusual for international cricketers to be away from their loved ones during the festive season. 

With Boxing Day Test cricket often taking place at several venues around the world each year, it is par for the course. 

This year, however, that separation has been taken to the extreme. 

The Proteas are based at the Irene Country Lodge in Centurion where they are preparing for the first Test against Sri Lanka on Saturday and they have spent much of their time there in total isolation. 

The current state of affairs surrounding the coronavirus pandemic and South Africa's second wave of infections has meant that, under the guidance of team doctor Shuiab Manjra, the Centurion bio-bubble has had to follow extremely strict safety protocols. 

South Africa's ODI series against England in Cape Town earlier this month was called off because of several coronavirus scares from within both camps and ensuring that this two-Test series goes off without any such complications is imperative for Cricket South Africa. 

In order to make that happen, sacrifices have had to be made during a time of year where fellowship is usually commonplace.

The Proteas lost two players who tested positive for the virus before entering the Irene bio-bubble, but since then they have undergone four rounds of testing that have seen every player return negative. 

It seems that, for now, everything is going smoothly and they are now training as a full group. 

Speaking on Christmas eve ahead of the first Test at SuperSport Park, Boucher opened up on life in the bubble and while he said it was comfortable living, he acknowledged a few frustrations too.  

"It's very comfortable. It's a great place," he said.

"There is a nice dam around here and the guys have been doing a bit of fishing. I always like to fish with a mate next to me, but we can't do that, so guys have been fishing by themselves.

"We've got a golf simulator that's been set up for us here too, so that's nice for the guys that like to play golf. It gets a bit frustrating that there is Centurion Lakes and Irene (golf courses) right next door and you can't play them, but these are the sorts of things we've got to do to get some cricket and as a coach I will certainly drive that."

Australia are set to arrive in South Africa for three Tests in March and while Boucher and the players are prepared to do all they can to make sure that tour goes ahead without any issues, he also pointed to the fact that his priority was to coach the team. 

"I don't like to micro-manage. There are people that have been put in place to do certain jobs. My job is to coach the team … it's not my job to control the bio-secure environment," he said.

"We get given information from our medical staff on what they feel is the best and safest way for this tour to go ahead.

"Do I want to play cricket? Absolutely. There is no cricket going on in South Africa at the moment which is disturbing. We want the best for the players and to get them onto the field.

"I want the guys to play, so if we have to go through certain hoops and strict things to get us to play a game of cricket, then we have to do it and I'll drive that from a coaching perspective.

"These guys are cricketers and they get judged by how they play on the park and we need to start realising that. I know there are a lot of other things going on at the moment but these guys are cricketers and they want to play cricket and perform. That's where they are at the moment."

Play on Saturday starts at 10:00.

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