South African Sides Return to Confusing and Congested URC Fixtures With Bok-Laden Squads

South Africa’s four competitors in the United Rugby Championship return to action this weekend, at full strength for the first time.

After an unscheduled six-week hiatus from the United Rugby Championship (URC) after the Omicron Covid-19 variant disrupted the fixture list, South Africa’s leading teams are back in action this weekend and all are at close to full strength.

The Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers face another round of local derbies in the cross-hemisphere tournament, which also features teams from Ireland, Wales, Scotland and Italy.

Last December, several touring teams endured an uncomfortable time as Omicron emerged just days before scheduled matches against South African opponents. Fixtures were called off and several players, who either contracted Covid or were exposed to it, had to remain in isolation in South Africa for up to two weeks.

URC bosses were forced into crisis mode to extract touring teams from South Africa before borders shut down, leading to hysterical reaction in Europe. Some of the reporting made it sound as if players were in a war-torn backwater, and not comfortably ensconced in luxury hotels in Cape Town. There were reports of Cardiff players having “panic attacks” at being stuck in South Africa for…

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