VIDEO: SA Rugby's new COVID-19 poser
REACTION: South Africa’s new domestic competition, Super Rugby Unlocked, has been cast under a cloud of uncertainty as a result of a COVID-19 outbreak.
It has been confirmed that the outbreak is related to the Round Two match between the Stormers and Lions at Newlands last Saturday – a game won 23-17 by the Cape Town franchise.
It has resulted in a very disrupted build-up to this week’s Round Three matches – with the Stormers set to play the Pumas in Nelspruit on Friday and the Lions hosting the table-topping Cheetahs on Saturday.
The biggest disruption was when news broke on Wednesday that two of the Stormers’ players – World Cup-winning prop Steven Kitshoff and hooker Siyabonga Ntubeni – had to be isolated according to COVID-19 protocols, after coming into contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus.
This follows after the Lions confirmed earlier on Wednesday that four of their players tested positive for COVID-19.
It is not as big as the drama that erupted in the Premiership in the last few weeks.
Sale Sharks paid a heavy price when they missed out on what would have been the club’s first play-off appearance in more than a decade – with 27 positive tests for COVID-19, resulting in the postponement and eventual cancellation of their final Premiership league match against Worcester Warriors.
There was even uncertainty over Wasps’ participation in the Premiership Final this week, after the English club produced 11 positive tests, including players and backroom staff.
However, Premiership Rugby gave them the all-clear on Wednesday, which means they – rather than Bristol Bears, the team they beat in the semifinal play-offs – will face newly-crowned European champions Exeter.
Those numbers make the Lions’ four cases pale in comparison.
Stormers coach John Dobson, speaking during a virtual media briefing from Nelspruit, confirmed that the outbreak is related to this past weekend’s Round Two encounter.
“All our players were tested on Tuesday [October, 20] and for the fifth week in a row, everybody was negative,” Dobson said. giving the assurance that the Cape Town outfit has not had a single positive case.
“[However], the protocols are pretty clear,” the coach said, adding: “The two teams involved [Stormers and Lions], as well as SA Rugby, review that and identify players that were within that contact zone to be excluded.
“Unfortunately Steven [Kitshoff] and Scarra [Ntubeni] were.
“So, you can work it out, it is probably based on a scrum, or something like that.
“They are now excluded [in isolation] for 10 days.”
He added that all the Stormers players and staff have tested negative.
The Lions, however, have four positive cases.
“These players, all of whom are asymptomatic, have been removed from the squad,” the Lions said in a statement.
The Lions insisted that all protocols have been kept and the relevant parties have been informed.
“We are ready and preparing for the Cheetahs at Ellis Park this weekend,” the statement said, adding that the Lions team will be retested before Saturday’s game.
The Lions have not released the names of the players who tested positive, but details are expected to emerge when they name their team on Thursday and the positive cases are left out of the matchday squad.
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Dobson explained how the drama unfolded in the last few weeks.
“If a player tests positive and he trained, the medical team has to review the training footage to see who crossed the contact threshold,” the Stormers coach explained.
“This [outbreak] was obviously during a match, because it was us [Stormers] against the Lions.
“It was somebody who had limited involvement in terms of game time. They reviewed it and our players who were identified were Kitsy and Scarra.
“They are both COVID-negative at the moment.”
He said the Lions would have followed the protocols since the revelation of the positive cases and they would have done contact tracing themselves.
“Kitsy and Scarra are a bit bewildered, as they are negative and were told they can’t play.
“However, for the integrity of the tournament and respect for the situation, we are very accepting of it.”