United Rugby Championship Covid 19 Omicron scare: Opinion

United Rugby Championship Covid 19

The United Rugby Championship Covid 19 scare this week underlined how fragile intercontinental competition remains. Games can be canceled at very short notice. Unfinished fixture lists also bring full competition results into question.

Canceled fixtures

South African rugby fans woke up to the unexpected news on Friday morning that the much-anticipated matches against Munster, Cardiff. Scarlets and Zebre had been called off. South Africa has been placed on the UK’s red list after South African scientists had identified a new variant of the Coronavirus. Teams were scrambling to get back to the UK and Ireland ahead of a 4am cut-off. If this cut-off was missed, people arriving would be subject to a 10-day quarantine period.

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United Rugby Championship Covid 19 scare

There are many opinions as to how fair this has been to South Africa and Africa in general. Player safety will always be of primary concern. What is worrying though is how hastily the decision was made to put South Africa and other African countries on the red list. This necessitated the touring teams to make urgent plans to exit the country urgently to avoid a compulsory 10 day isolation period on their return.

Firstly, when the decision was made, there wasn’t a single instance that the new Omicron variant had resulted in the hospitalization of a patient. In fact, the symptoms have been described as mild. Secondly, cases have been found in European countries. These countries have yet to be added to the red list. Two sets of rules? One for Africa and one for the rest of the world? The United Rugby Championship Covid 19 scare has left very many fans disappointed. It would be interesting to see how Cardiff and Munster Rugby are treated given that at the time of writing, they were still sitting in South Africa.

Rescheduled games

United Rugby Championship state that the postponed games will be rescheduled. There are a few dates open as shown below, but some of them could prove to be problematic. The already full calendar could make traveling between hemispheres over a couple of weekends a necessity. This is assuming that there are no further Coronavirus complications. The open weekends are:

14 to 16 and 21 to 23 January 2022

This would possibly be the best fit for all teams, but there is no guarantee that South Africa will be off the red list by then.

25 to 27 February and 11 to 13 March

These two weekends are also “open”. It is questionable though if the teams involved will be happy to play a game in South Africa without their international players.

8 to 10 April, 6 to 8 May and 13 to 15 May

These appear to be the best weekends to play the postponed games. There are no international games and there is enough time for South Africa to ensure that they are removed from the red list to allow for free travel of teams.

As the world has shown us over the last while, these plans are just that until they actually happen.

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