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The big URC enigma: Why the rush to cancel?

OPINION: @king365ed attempts to unpack the head-scratching decision to cancel the weekend’s United Rugby Championship Round Six matches, leaving the South African teams in the lurch.


There was a mad scramble this past Friday, when news broke of the discovery of the Omicron COVID variant.

I’m not going to pass judgement on the merits of placing South Africa on the international red list.

However, the hysterical rush by the four visiting URC franchises to get out of South Africa was curious, given that two teams are still stuck in Cape Town and another was intermingling with the public at Cape Town’s famous Waterfront tourist attraction at the weekend.

Let’s accept that their concerns about getting home before the border closures were genuine.

South African Rugby should also be applauded for assisting in getting a charter flight organised.

However, if they were so concerned about the virus and getting back home, why were the Zebre squad members – and there were a number of them – fraternizing with the public at the Waterfront at the weekend.


That was on the day of their scheduled match with the Stormers at the nearby Cape Town Stadium.

Their venture out into public places was a day after Zebre Chairman Michele Dalai said on Twitter that the team was “fine and safe” in their hotel.

“We have maintained all the necessary precautions and we’re waiting to know when we’ll come back home. The boys are calm, as the current situation in Cape Town,” he said.

The mind boggles.


Surely that game, at the very least, could have gone ahead.

On Monday morning Dalai posted an update that the team has landed in Dublin, en route to Bologna.

By all accounts, the Welsh franchise Scarlets also flew out of Cape Town on a charter flight on Sunday, after arriving from Durban – where they were supposed to play the Sharks.

However, two other teams – Irish province Munster and Welsh franchise Cardiff – are still stuck in Cape Town.

Munster was set to face the Bulls in Pretoria and Cardiff was meant to tackle the Lions in Johannesburg.

Their delayed departures were the result of some positive cases detected in the two squads

These developments pose another question.

Why did these teams not follow the same strict protocols the South African franchises were subjected to during their trip to Europe at the start of the season in September and October?

The Stormers and Lions were in strict lockdown for 10 days in Italy.

They abided by the rigorous and authoritarian conditions foisted upon them in order for the first four rounds to take place.

In contrast, at the drop of a hat, the European teams rushed for the exit doors.

It makes you wonder if everybody’s commitment to the URC is at the same level?


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