Sporting events in South Africa have been turned upside down following the British government’s announcement on Thursday that South Africa had returned to the “red list” following the discovery of a new strain of coronavirus in the country.
Officially known as B.1.1.529 and potentially named Nu, the variant has worried scientists due to a large number of mutations and a large number of cases in South Africa. It was originally seen in Botswana.
Two Welsh rugby teams, Cardiff and the Scarlets, have announced they are withdrawing from scheduled United Rugby Championship matches and plan to return home as soon as possible.
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Sixteen British players withdrew after the first round of the Joburg Open golf tournament, the first event of the new DP World Tour, and had to return to Britain to avoid having to spend two mandatory weeks in quarantine.
The quarantine obligation comes into effect on Sunday.
The Scarlets were scheduled to face the Sharks in Durban on Saturday and Cardiff were scheduled to meet the Lions in Johannesburg on Sunday.
Irish team Munster and Italy’s Zebre were also in South Africa for Saturday’s games against the Bulls and Stormers respectively.
There was no immediate word on whether the Munster and Zebra games were going to take place. Munster issued a statement saying their players were “safe and healthy” in Pretoria. The club said they are working with the championship organizers and will provide an update later.
A spokesperson for the Sunshine Tour, which co-sanctions the South African stage of the World Tour, said officials from both bodies are meeting to discuss the latest developments and are expected to issue a statement later on Friday.
Two more tournaments, the South African Open and the Alfred Dunhill Championships, are scheduled in South Africa over the next two weeks and the spokesperson said at this point the tournaments are due to take place.
The South African cricket team played a one-day international match against the Netherlands at Centurion on Friday, but according to website Espncricinfo, it has not yet been decided whether two more matches in the series will be played. .
Fear of the coronavirus could also jeopardize a comprehensive high-profile tour of South Africa by India, which includes three test matches, three one-day internationals and four Twenty20 internationals, starting December 17.