Former Wales and British and Irish Lions midfielder Jamie Roberts has revealed his biggest concern while stuck in South Africa amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The 33-year-old joined the Stormers from English Premiership club Bath shortly before the 2020 Super Rugby campaign kicked off in January, and has made a steady start to life with his new side in Cape Town.
However, the evolving outbreak of COVID-19 has seen circumstances change drastically throughout the Southern Hemisphere.
Super Rugby is now on hold indefinitely as New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Argentina and Japan have all placed restrictions of some kind for international travellers to try combat the virus.
Such restrictions have left the competition in limbo for the foreseeable future, with the Stormers stuck in seventh place after seven rounds of play.
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For Roberts, South Africa’s closure of its borders with 60 known cases of coronavirus in the country means he can’t return to his homeland for the time being – not that that is his primary concern.
“The main worry in South Africa is the quality of the healthcare system and people’s access to it,” the 97-cap international, who is a Cardiff University medical graduate, told The Daily Mail.
“I’ve only been here a few months. You just hope something as fast spreading as coronavirus doesn’t get into the townships. That’s the biggest worry here.
“There was a big announcement by the president on Sunday that they are closing the borders to people from high-risk countries. I was thinking of nipping back to Wales in April, but I can’t do that now because I wouldn’t be allowed back into South Africa.
“There are still huge question marks over whether Super Rugby will get finished. I think it’s unrealistic to envisage us playing for another three or four weeks and by that time you are into mid-April. The tournament was meant to finish in the middle weekend of June.
“I can’t see them fulfilling all their fixtures.”
From a strictly rugby perspective, however, Roberts has been thriving in the Republic, notching two man-of-the-match performances over the past month-and-a-half.
A change of tactical mindset has forced into more of a distributor role at the Stormers, as opposed to a constant ball-carrying option that he was often used as while plying his trade both internationally and for clubs in Cardiff, Paris, London and Bath.
Roberts conceded that he could well find himself abroad yet again later on in his career, but possibly only after the Stormers host the British and Irish Lions next year, more than a decade after the man himself played for the side in South Africa.
“The Stormers play the British & Irish Lions in the opening game of the 2021 tour and being a rugby romantic and having been on that tour in 2009, it would be pretty cool to get the chance to play against the Lions in South Africa,” he said.
“We are having conversations about maybe doing that. The opportunity to keep on the adventure and maybe experience America or Japan would also be awesome.”
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