After a Covid-enforced stay of absence in South Africa, the team are homeward bound

Cardiff return to UK

A party of 42 Cardiff staff were finally able to leave South Africa on Friday morning, after yesterday’s planned departure from Cape Town was scuppered. All but six of the group will leave, as those remaining tested positive for Covid-19.

On 26 November, four United Rugby Championship sides – Cardiff, Munster, Scarlets and Zebre – faced a race to get out of South Africa as travel bans came in amidst an outbreak of a new Covid-19 variant (Omicron) in South Africa. And while Munster, Scarlets and Zebre all got out on a chartered flight last Sunday afternoon, Cardiff were forced to head back to a hotel to isolate as two members of their group tested positive for Covid, including one suspected Omicron case.

As new avenues were explored to find a way fro the squad to isolate back in the UK, much of the conversation turned to how a stay of absence in South Africa was affecting the group.

The team were due to fly out on the morning of Thursday 2 December, but their landing slot was rescinded. There will be relief that the group are homeward bound today, with Cardiff tweeting from their official channels: “UK-bound. We’ll see you very soon.”

However, the situation in South Africa – with the four sides involved dealing with different quarantine timelines – had thrown upcoming European into doubt. Yesterday, European Professional Club Rugby officials made it possible for side register an unlimited number of new players before December 8, in order to preserve the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup fixtures coming up.

In a statement, EPCR added on the decision: “With no alternative weekends available in the 2021/22 season calendar, EPCR is in regular dialogue with the leagues and clubs to ensure that all possible measures are considered so that the matches take place as scheduled.

“While looking forward to another series of compelling pool stage fixtures, EPCR is mindful of how recent events have impacted on Cardiff Rugby, Munster Rugby, Scarlets and Zebre Parma in particular, and the tournament organiser would like to extend its best wishes to the players and staff who currently remain in South Africa, as well as to the players and staff who have been repatriated and are currently isolating.”

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