Wed 7 Jul 2021 | 01:06

SA Rugby not the villain in COVID chaos

SA Rugby not the villain in COVID chaos
Wed 7 Jul 2021 | 01:06
SA Rugby not the villain in COVID chaos
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REACTION: Bulls Chief Executive Officer Edgar Rathbone has come to the defence of SA Rugby, following the latest COVID-19 outbreak.

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SA Rugby confirmed that the match between the Bulls and the British and Irish Lions in Pretoria on Saturday was postponed, after four unidentified players and one official from the host franchise tested positive for COVID-19.

At the same time, there are doubts whether Friday’s Test between South Africa and Georgia in Johannesburg will go ahead, following positive tests in both camps.

Centre Francois Steyn, flyhalf Handre Pollard, prop Frans Malherbe and lock Marvin Orie all returned positive results – after lock Lodewyk de Jager tested positive on Monday.

Head coach Jacques Nienaber, five other management team members and a masseuse have also contracted the disease.

The last 48-hour has been a major setback for the B&I Lions and Springboks, who desperately need some game time after their 20-month Covid-19 enforced hiatus.

In the case of tourists, the match against the Bulls was expected to be competitive fixtures against the best team in South Africa.

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Speaking in a virtual media briefing, the Bulls CEO, Rathbone, said he is still hopeful they will face the tourist – with an alternative date of Tuesday, July 20, just days before the first Test in Cape Town on July 24.

“The overriding feeling is disappointment that the match couldn’t take place now,” Rathbone said, adding: “Obviously, there is a bit of hope it will still happen.

“It’s a once in a lifetime match and we built a lot of our strategies, the jersey launch – everything was built around this match going back to 1997 [when the Bulls beat the B&I Lions].

“You can’t plan for these things,”

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The B&I Lions match against the Durban-based Sharks is set to go ahead on Wednesday.

They have two games in Cape Town – against South Africa ‘A’ and the Stormers.

The fixtures give Warren Gatland’s men enough time for the much-anticipated Tests against the Springboks, according to Rathbone.

“There are still a few weeks to go before the first Test match, so there’s more than enough time for both teams to prepare,” Rathbone said.

“There hasn’t been word on the Georgia Test, whether it’s going ahead or not.

“It will be important for the Springboks’ planning to get a match or two in before the Test series.

“The British & Irish Lions have the Sharks to play, the SA A team and the Stormers, at the very least, and hopefully us.

“They will be fine in terms of their preparation.”

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With the tour in disarray, a lot of questions have been raised in regards to SA Rugby’s handling of the COVID-19 protocols.

However, Rathbone stated there is no need to point fingers at SA Rugby and has praised the organisation for their effort to staged a tour during these tiring times.

“The amount of work that has gone in from SA Rugby’s side to just make this tour happen is unbelievable.

“You can’t really fault them on that.

“I don’t think anybody could have planned for this delta variant and how contagious that has been over the last few weeks in Gauteng.

“I can’t imagine anybody being able to fault the work SA Rugby has done. It’s been impeccable in these trying times,”

He added: “Since the pandemic started last year, if you look at the amount of rugby we’ve actually been able to play through all of this, it’s unbelievable.

“Even with this latest outbreak in our system, they turned every stone to try to make the game happen.”

In terms of the Bulls’ positive cases, Rathbone revealed one or two players were suffering from mild symptoms, while the rest were currently asymptomatic.

@leezil07
@rugby365com

 

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