NO TRUTH TO RU­MOURS THAT TEAM HAS BEEN DEC­I­MATED BY COVID-19 IN­FEC­TIONS

Diamond Fields Advertiser - - Dfa Sport - NEVILLE MOTLHABAKW­E AND DAVE ALEXAN­DER More Su­per Rugby Un­locked on PAGE 23

THE SU­PER Rugby Un­locked com­pe­ti­tion kicks off this week­end with the Cell C Sharks hosting the Lions at Jon­s­son Kings Park in Dur­ban, at 7pm this evening. Then, to­mor­row at 4.30pm, the Toy­ota Chee­tahs take on Phak­isa Pu­mas at the Toy­ota Sta­dium in Bloem­fontein and at 7pm the Bulls face off Tafel Lager Gri­quas at Lof­tus Versveld.

Gri­quas wound up their stren­u­ous prepa­ra­tions for this im­por­tant first round fix­ture on Wed­nes­day be­fore trav­el­ling up to Pre­to­ria, and the DFA ap­proached the union about ru­mours that the team line-up had been dec­i­mated by Coro­n­avirus in­fec­tions.

Gri­quas dis­missed ru­mours that the team might not take to the field against the Bulls in their first Su­per Rugby Un­locked clash, with Gri­quas CEO Arni van Rooyen chuck­ling when he spoke to the DFA on Wed­nes­day.

“No, the ru­mours that the team was un­well are not true”.

Van Rooyen did, how­ever, con­firm that one of the team’s mem­bers had tested pos­i­tive for the Coro­n­avirus. Other than that the rest of the team were in good health and will take to the field to­mor­row evening, he said. He de­clined to name the par­tic­u­lar player ex­cept to say that the con­cerned player was in the head coach’s ini­tial squad line-up for this week­end’s clash against the Bulls.

Team Oper­a­tions man­ager Lance Sal­ter had ear­lier also dis­missed the ru­mours that Gri­quas may not be able to field a side against the Bulls as the squad may have been laid low by the pan­demic.

Other than the one player con­firmed as be­ing down with the virus, two other Gri­quas ad­min staff mem­bers were said to be down with symp­toms that could be re­lated to the virus. One of them is the team’s me­dia li­ai­son con­tact Na­dia Louw who had ear­lier redi­rected all en­quiries to the team’s Tafel Lager Park head of­fice.

Louw con­firmed that she had been off the team base for about a week now and will likely only re­turn some­time next week. She con­firmed that she had dis­played symp­toms of the virus and was self-iso­lat­ing at the moment.

Gri­quas had, in the lead-up to this week­end’s game, had two home and away prac­tice matches against neigh­bours the Chee­tahs. The Kimberley team had also just re­cently started with full-con­tact prac­tice

TEAM

ses­sions since the na­tion­wide lock­down rules were re­laxed to level one.

Mean­while, over at the Bulls camp, the tech­ni­cal team had wor­ries of their own with me­dia rife with spec­u­la­tion that front ranker Trevor Nyakane might not be avail­able for the Gri­quas clash.

The Bulls were still wait­ing yes­ter­day to find out whether or not their Spring­bok prop would be avail­able for se­lec­tion for this week­end’s game. Nyakane was forced to go into iso­la­tion af­ter be­ing in close con­tact with fel­low Spring­bok player Oupa Mo­hoje last week­end af­ter Mo­hoje had tested pos­i­tive for the Coro­n­avirus.

Mean­while, in the week run­ning up to their de­par­ture on Wed­nes­day the squad was iron­ing out their mis­takes that they had made in the last pre-sea­son warm-up game against the Chee­tahs last week. In that game Gri­quas lost 31-21 in a much im­proved dis­play from their first out­ing.

As head coach, Scott Mathie put it, “We are look­ing for­ward to start­ing our cam­paign against the Bulls this week­end, away.

“Hav­ing had two games’ prepa­ra­tion has helped us iron out a few er­rors and al­lowed us to im­ple­ment our sys­tems. We ex­pect a phys­i­cal en­counter against the Bulls. Their set-piece and kick­ing game are ob­vi­ous strengths and we will need to com­bat that. It’s just great to get on the bus again and look for­ward to a big week­end of rugby,” Mathie told the DFA.

Gri­quas have on odd oc­ca­sion beaten the more fan­cied Bulls out­fit and what fans will re­mem­ber is the 1970 Cin­derella story when Gri­quas came from nowhere to win the Cur­rie Cup, beat­ing the strong Bulls out­fit.

De­spite the strength of the Bulls, there is no there is no rea­son why it can­not be done this time round.

Next week, Gri­quas will host Phak­isa Pu­mas at Tafel Lager Park.

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