United Rugby Championship

New Covid-19 variant postpones SA United Rugby Championship games

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Munster's RG Snyman scores against the Stormers. (Brendan Moran/Gallo Images)
Munster's RG Snyman scores against the Stormers. (Brendan Moran/Gallo Images)

The United Rugby Championship fixtures, which were scheduled to be hosted in South Africa, have been postponed as the country grapples with the emergence of a new Covid-19 variant, SA Rugby announced in a statement on Friday.

As such, the URC will be facilitating the return of teams which were based in South Africa for the back-to-back fixtures.

"The safety and well-being of our participating clubs' players, coaches, 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," the statement read.

The emergence of a new Covid-19 variant sent competition organisers scrambling for solutions ahead of back-to-back matches set to be hosted in South Africa. 

As a result, next week's round seven fixtures have also been postponed.

The statement continued:

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.

On Thursday, the British government announced that it was temporarily banning all flights from several southern African countries due to the identification of the new Covid variant.

Said SA Rugby: "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."

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.

The latest announcement will come as a bitter pill to swallow for South African teams and spectators alike, as they were expected to grace stadiums over the next two weeks of URC action.

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