Munster, Cardiff rugby teams to leave SA without COVID-hit members

Most of Munster’s squad departed from Cape Town on Tuesday night, according to a statement from the Irish club.

Munster players and staff at an airport in South Africa as they prepare to depart the country following the detection of the Omicron coronavirus variant. Picture: @Munsterrugby/Twitter

CAPE TOWN - The majority of players and staff from the Munster and Cardiff rugby clubs who have been stranded in South Africa because of coronavirus restrictions said they will leave by Thursday.

Most of Munster’s squad departed from Cape Town on Tuesday night, according to a statement from the Irish club.

Cardiff, the last of four United Rugby Championship teams hit by travel bans, will leave on Thursday.

But both clubs had to leave behind squad members who tested positive for the virus.

Fourteen of the Munster squad remained in quarantine in Cape Town, while the Cardiff club said two of their party would have to stay behind.

"The wider Munster touring party departed Cape Town tonight after a group of 34 players and staff received negative results on completing a fourth round of PCR testing in six days,” Munster said in a statement.

"Another four positive cases were identified in Tuesday's round of PCR testing and a total group of 14 will see out their respective isolation periods at the designated quarantine hotel in Cape Town."

The Munster squad will be required to quarantine for 10 days on arrival in Ireland, putting in doubt their scheduled European Champions Cup opener away to Wasps on December 12.

Cardiff announced their squad would leave on a charter flight on Thursday morning and would spend 10 days in a quarantine hotel in England before returning to Wales.

Rhys Blumberg, Cardiff Rugby’s Chief Operating Officer, criticised the Welsh government, which has refused to allow the squad to spend their quarantine period in Wales.

"Absolutely appalling empathy and support shown by @WelshGovernment with regards to @Cardiff_Rugby staff who are stuck in South Africa," Blumberg tweeted. "No special treatment requested, just support to get them back on Welsh soil so they can start their quarantine."

Another Welsh club, Scarlets, and Italy’s Zebre were able to leave South Africa on Sunday.

All four clubs were scheduled to play URC matches in South Africa last weekend but the fixtures were postponed after the announcement that travel bans had been imposed on South Africa following the discovery of the Omicron variant of coronavirus.