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Scarlets and Cardiff want to return from SA 'ASAP' as URC hit by variant fears

By PA
(Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

The Scarlets and Cardiff are planning to return to Wales at the earliest opportunity after South Africa was added to the UK Government’s travel red list.

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The United Rugby Championship is scheduled to stage its first fixtures on South African soil this weekend, with the Scarlets set to face the Sharks in Durban on Saturday, while fellow Welsh region Cardiff have an appointment with the Lions in Johannesburg on Sunday.

A statement from Scarlets reads: “Following the news of a new Covid variant in South Africa, Scarlets would like to assure families and friends that we are making every effort to get our touring party back home to the UK as soon as possible. We will provide further updates as soon as we can.”

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Guess the celebrity Rose | Karen Carney | England Rugby

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Guess the celebrity Rose | Karen Carney | England Rugby

Cardiff have also stated their desire to get home:”With the situation in South Africa having changed so quickly, we are now looking to repatriate our staff ASAP. For concerned families and friends, please rest assured that our focus is to ensure the safety and welfare of our people and will keep you updated with any developments.”

Irish province Munster and Italian club Zebre Parma are also in South Africa ahead of fixtures against the Bulls and Stormers respectively, and all four sides are due to play a second round of matches in the country next weekend.

UK officials sounded the alarm on Thursday night over a new variant of the virus that causes Covid-19 which some fear has the potential to evade immunity built up by vaccination or prior infection.

Sajid Javid, the UK Health Secretary, said that flights to England from South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Eswatini and Zimbabwe will be suspended from midday Friday and all six countries will be added to the red list.

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It is not yet clear how Munster and Zebre will react to the developments.

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Flankly 9 hours ago
Resilient Irish will test Springboks despite provincial setbacks

The Bok kryptonite is complacency. How did they lose to Japan in 2015, or to Italy in 2016? There are plenty of less dramatic examples. They often boil down to the Boks dialing back their focus and intensity, presuming they can win with less than 100% commitment. This can be true of most teams, but there is a reason that the Boks are prone to it. It boils down to the Bok game plan being predicated on intensity. The game plan works because of the relentless and suffocating pressure that they apply. They don’t allow the opponent to control the game, and they pounce on any mistake. It works fantastically, but it is extremely demanding on the Bok players to pull it off. And the problem is that it stops working if you execute at anything less than full throttle. Complacency kills the Boks because it can lead to them playing at 97% and getting embarrassed. So the Bulls/Leinster result is dangerous. It’s exactly what is needed to introduce that hint of over-confidence. Rassie needs to remind the team of the RWC pool game, and of the fact that Ireland have won 8 of the 12 games between the teams in the last 20 years. And of course the Leinster result also means that Ireland have a point to prove. Comments like “a club team beating a test team” will be pasted on the changing room walls. They will be out to prove that the result of the RWC game truly reflects the pecking order between the teams. The Boks can win these games, but, as always, they need to avoid the kryptonite.

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