JOHANNESBURG – The SuperRugby Unlocked encounter between the Lions and Free State Cheetahs at Ellis Park on Saturday has been called off, in line with Covid-19 protocols, a statement from SA Rugby revealed.
“The cancellation was triggered on Saturday morning following the receipt of results from a second batch of tests on the Lions senior squad playing and coaching personnel, which revealed two further positive cases,” the statement read.
Earlier this week, four players at the Lions tested positive for the virus and were placed in self-isolation. At the time the union revealed that they were all asymptomatic, but it later transpired that at least two of those players had indeed shown symptoms of the disease, but had already begun recovery. A further five players were withdrawn from the squad ahead of the team announcement on Thursday.
The Lions have not revealed the names of any of the now 11 players, due to doctor-patient confidentiality, but did reveal that they will be in quarantine for at least 10 days, depending on any of the players showing symptoms, and the severity of their illness, if any.
The decision to cancel the match was within the ambit of the precautions as advised by the National Institute of Communicable Diseases to limit the continued possibility of spreading this particular viral cluster and “limit the risk of further infection in the rugby community”
The Vodacom Super Rugby Unlocked match between Emirates Lions and Toyota Cheetahs scheduled for Emirates Airlines Park this afternoon has been called off in line with COVID-19 protocols.
— Emirates Lions (@LionsRugbyCo) October 24, 2020
As explained within the statement, SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux justified the cancellation, saying that although it as disappointing, it was necessary to ensure the safety of players and coaches alike. Roux also revealed that SA Rugby would review their protocols to ensure that further disruptions to the matchday calendar would be avoided.
Said Roux: “Containing the spread of the disease is a national imperative and this first impact on the rugby schedule is a stark reminder of how vigilant our community has to be and how rigorous we must be in following the rules.”
“Safety comes first,” Roux continued, “and although it is extremely disappointing for all concerned, it is a reminder to our teams and players of the role their actions will play in avoiding the risk of more cancellations.
“Despite having followed the advisory precautions and the plans that were approved by the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture (DSAC), we will take this opportunity to review them and strengthen them if required.”
A window to reschedule the match will now be considered. If no opportunity to do so presents itself, both teams will receive two points on the standings.