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