The new alternative hits the sport just as they were approaching normality

The new alternative hits the sport just as they were approaching normality

Cape town Golf, cricket and rugby became the first major sports to be affected by the new type of COVID-19 on Friday, raising fears of renewed travel restrictions and event disruption as they were returning to normal nearly two years into the pandemic.

European golfers pulled out halfway during the season-opening DP World Championships in Johannesburg and were scrambling to catch flights from South Africa. Visiting cricket and rugby teams were doing the same.

Golf was first affected by the emergence of the new B.1.1.529 variant that was initially identified in South Africa and is causing concern over concerns that it may be more transmissible than existing variants and resistant to vaccines.

It has already been discovered in Israel, Hong Kong and Belgium as well as several other countries in South Africa.


Organizers said that while the start of the World Tour was in ruins, rugby matches in South Africa in a new tournament between Europe and South Africa were postponed “due to surprising developments”. A tour by the Indian cricket team to South Africa next month is likely to be reconsidered, although there is no official comment yet.

The Dutch cricket team, already in South Africa for a series, has been thinking about whether to cancel their remaining matches and come home early. The Royal Netherlands Cricket Association said it was looking at options but it was “unlikely” it would be able to find flights on short notice.

“The physical and mental health of the players is the first priority,” the federation said.

Organizers of the Joburg Open golf tournament, which began on Thursday, said it would continue even after at least 23 European players withdrew in the hours after South African health authorities announced they had discovered the new alternative. Organizers said the tournament was later scaled back to a three-round, 54-hole event that ended on Saturday “to help non-South African players, and tournament support staff, return to their home countries”.


The Joburg Open was set to be the first of three events in South Africa to start the new season on the circuit formerly known as the European Tour. But next week’s South African Open will now be just a tour of South Africa as international players are likely to return home to overcome travel restrictions. The Alfred Dunhill Tournament scheduled for December 9-12 has been cancelled.

Many of the players who pulled out of the Joburg Open were from Britain or Ireland reacting after the British government announced it would reintroduce a ban on visitors from South Africa and five other South African countries from 4am on Sunday. Returning residents will be subject to mandatory 10-day quarantine periods at designated hotels.

The European Union and the United States later said they would halt air travel from southern Africa as countries around the world began imposing new travel restrictions.


Irish golfer Paul Dunn, one of those who pulled out, told RTE radio that he was able to get a ride home via Dubai and the only one available now went through Ethiopia, where a year-long conflict threatens to reach the capital, Addis Ababa.

“No one imagines traveling there either,” Dunn said. “Part of a minefield at the moment.”

Not everyone left. Scottish golfer David Drysdale says he has decided to continue playing at the Joburg Open and then stay in South Africa with his wife, who also works on a buggy, where he is on vacation.

Drysdale told The Scotsman: “Most of the British guys decided to go home and that’s perfectly understandable if you have a wife and kids at home. There was no (airplane) seat they could have at home. By the time we found out what had happened, a lot of guys felt We panicked, but we thought, “What’s the point?”

“We are staying with our buddy in Joburg and our plan is to stay until Christmas and then go home. Hopefully this swing won’t be as bad as they feared… It hasn’t been 24 hours since we heard about this.”


Four rugby teams – two from Wales, one from Ireland and one from Italy – were also trying to return home from South Africa before they had a chance to play after their matches were postponed by the United Rugby Championship.

Welsh club Cardiff said: “With the situation in South Africa changing so rapidly, we are now looking to bring our staff back as quickly as possible.”

There would have been repercussions for other events in other countries, such as the Women’s Cricket World Cup qualification tournament in Zimbabwe, another South African country on the new travel ban list. Nine national teams, including the United States, play in that tournament, which runs through December 5.

With just over a month left until the Africa Cup of Nations, Africa’s premier soccer tournament, it looms as a potential problem after it has already been postponed for a year due to the pandemic.

The 24-team tournament will be held in Cameroon, and only two South African nations, Malawi and Zimbabwe, have qualified. But the African Cup will be hit hard if European countries expand travel restrictions across Africa.


Previously, major European football teams, especially those in the English Premier League, banned their African players from traveling and playing for their countries due to the risks and quarantine periods imposed on them upon their return.


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