Munster squad start first leg of return from South Africa

The province's two-game tour of the country was thrown in thrown into chaos following the emergence of a new coronavirus variant which has resulted in strict travel restrictions and quarantine protocols.
Munster squad start first leg of return from South Africa

Munster squad gathering for a flight at Pretoria airport on Saturday afternoon. Image via Munster Rugby

The Munster squad has begun the first leg of their departure from South Africa though it remains unclear when they will return to Ireland.

The province's two-game tour of the country was thrown in thrown into chaos following the emergence of a new coronavirus variant which has resulted in strict travel restrictions and quarantine protocols.

The touring group of 34 players and 14 staff were cocooned in their hotel on Friday night as officials and travel agents attempted to secure seats on flights. 

In the last hour, club chiefs tweeted an image from the airport with the caption: "We are departing Pretoria & making our way to Cape Town where we will base ourselves until we have another flight update."

The returning squad and backroom officials may also have to spend 10 days in isolation on their return according to government guidelines which will impact on their preparations for next month's Heineken Champions Cup opener against Wasps.

But for now, the focus is on getting the Munster party on a flight out of South Africa. 

The province issued a statement this morning: "Munster Rugby continue to work tirelessly on travel plans for getting the touring party back to Ireland as soon as possible.

"Based in Loftus Park the touring group of 34 players and 14 staff are remaining within the hotel environment waiting on further developments.

"The training week was well spent at the nearby Affies high school with the squad having the gym, pitch, and meeting room facilities to themselves.

"While it was an enjoyable and productive week in the build-up to what would have been today’s game against the Vodacom Bulls the focus has now switched to ensuring the squad’s return to Ireland.

"A special note of thanks to Protea Hotel Operations Manager Greg Sparke and his staff for the fantastic care and service provided during the week. The squad are also grateful for the services of Team Liaison Warren Morris who has been working with the squad for the tour."

Commenting on the situation, Head of Medical Dr Jamie Kearns noted, "We were really looking forward to this URC encounter especially given Johann’s relationship with the club. Overall, the week has gone smoothly with everyone in high spirits.

"We are disappointed not to be playing today, but we are all too aware of the ever-changing world of Covid-19 and the danger it represents, and our priority is the health and wellbeing of the group.

"After receiving negative PCR test results, we continue to follow Covid protocols, restrict our movements and remain within our bubble as the work continues in the background on getting the touring party back to Ireland."

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