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Gordon Arons/INPHO Munster squad training in Pretoria this week.
Munster's URC clash in South Africa postponed amid Covid variant news
The province are in Pretoria for a planned game against the Bulls this weekend but are now working to get home urgently.

LAST UPDATE | Nov 26th 2021, 1:12 PM

MUNSTER ARE UNDERSTOOD to be working towards getting home from South Africa as soon as possible after news of a concerning new Covid variant has emerged over the past 24 hours.

The United Rugby Championship today confirmed the postponement of all games in South Africa slated for the next two weekends. 

“Due to the sudden developments connected with the new Covid-19 variant (B.1.1.529) that have immediately placed South Africa on the UK and EU travel red lists, the scheduled Round 6 and 7 United Rugby Championship fixtures set to take place in South Africa over the next two weekends have been postponed and will be rescheduled later this season”, read a competition statement. 

“The safety and well-being of our participating clubs’ players, coaches and support staff and match officials is the foremost priority and the URC is currently working with the four visiting clubs – Cardiff Rugby, Munster Rugby, Scarlets and Zebre Parma – to facilitate their return as soon as possible.

“This decision is based upon the latest guidance against non-essential travel to and from South Africa, the ban on direct flights to the UK and other home destinations and the potential hotel quarantines enforced upon those returning from South Africa.”

A quarantine period would potently affect the sides’ Champions Cup and Challenge Cup fixtures in three weekends’ time. 

Munster were set to face the Vodacom Bulls at Loftus Versfeld tomorrow evening, while they had another fixture with the Emirates Lions scheduled for the following weekend.

Welsh sides Cardiff and Scarlets, as well as Italian outfit Zebre, are also currently in South Africa for two-game tours.

The42 understands that Munster and the other three clubs are currently working urgently with the URC to get themselves home. 

Munster are due to face Wasps in the UK in the Champions Cup pool stages on 12 December and there are some worries about that fixture potentially being impacted. However, the primary concern is the health of players and staff.

The42 understands that Munster and the URC have been working throughout the night to figure out a route home.

The URC have yet to announce rescheduled dates for these games. 

 It’s believed that one possibility is that the games could be played during the 2022 Six Nations window.

Cardiff and the Scarlets have officially confirmed that they hope to return to Wales at the earliest opportunity after South Africa was added to the UK Government’s travel red list.

The Scarlets are scheduled to face the Sharks in Durban tomorrow, and Cardiff are down to play the Lions in Johannesburg on Sunday. 

However, after UK officials warned of a new variant of the virus – B.1.1.529 – both clubs issued short statements overnight stressing they are working on returning to the UK as soon as possible.

Italian outfit Zebre were slated for a showdown with the Stormers in Cape Town before playing the Sharks the following weekend. 

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Cardiff said they are “looking to repatriate our staff ASAP”, adding that “our focus is to ensure the safety and welfare of our people”.

Scarlets said: “Following the news of a new COVID-19 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.”

UK officials warned on Thursday night that the new variant of the virus that causes Covid-19 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.

Updated at 13.15 following confirmation from the URC of the postponement of games 

Gavan Casey and Bernard Jackman are joined by Garry Doyle to peak at next year’s Six Nations through the lens of November just gone, look ahead to the weekend’s URC fixtures, and discuss potential replacements for Stephen Larkham at Munster:

The42 Rugby Weekly / SoundCloud

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