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New South African variant of Covid triggers swift exit for UK rugby and golf stars

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New South African variant of Covid triggers swift exit for UK rugby and golf stars

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he detection of a new variant of Covid-19 in South Africa has left the country’s sporting events in turmoil.

Rugby teams rushed to leave the country before strict travel restrictions were imposed, with the new look of Golf’s DP World Tour also in jeopardy.

The United Rugby Championship (URC) was supposed to pit Cardiff and the Scarlets against South African teams, but they must now leave the country to return before the UK travel ban is imposed on Friday at noon.

“The situation in South Africa having changed so rapidly, we are now looking to repatriate our staff as soon as possible,” Cardiff wrote on Twitter.

“For the families and friends concerned, rest assured that our goal is to ensure the safety and well-being of our people and we will keep you informed of any developments.”

Scarlets said they too were trying to get out as quickly as possible.

Officials told Reuters on Friday that the RCU matches would be canceled, with an announcement expected later.

Cardiff was due to face the Lions in Johannesburg on Sunday while the Scarlets are in Durban to face the Sharks on Saturday.

There was no word on plans for Irish club Munster, who were due to meet the Bulls in Pretoria on Saturday, or Italy’s Zebre, in Cape Town to face the Stormers.

They are the first clubs to arrive in South Africa since the start of the pandemic and the postponement of fixtures will be a blow to the newly launched tournament involving teams from South Africa, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales.

The first round of the Joburg Open Golf resumed Friday morning after a thunderstorm brought play to an early end on Thursday.

Ross Fisher competing at the Johannesburg Open on Thursday

/ Getty Images

The second round started at 7 a.m. local time, but by then 15 British and Irish golfers had already retired. The event is the first on the program of the DP World Tour, formerly European Tour.

On Friday, South Africa will host the Netherlands in the first of a series of three One Day international cricket matches.

“At this point in our planning and preparation, we have not heard of any developments regarding the impact of the new variant on incoming internationals,” Cricket South Africa told Reuters on Friday.

“If there is a change, CSA will issue a statement and advice on any planned adjustments.”

South Africa is also set to host India next month, with this tour set to be a major boon for Cricket South Africa’s coffers. India is expected to play three tests in December and January, followed by a limited series of overs.

Reuters additional reports.

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