Cheetahs players test negative for Covid-19

STILL HEALTHY: Ruan Pienaar of the Cheetahs and David Shanahan of Ulster after their Guinness PRO14 match at the Kingspan Stadium in Belfast, Ireland
STILL HEALTHY: Ruan Pienaar of the Cheetahs and David Shanahan of Ulster after their Guinness PRO14 match at the Kingspan Stadium in Belfast, Ireland
Image: (Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Gallo Images)

The Toyota Cheetahs Guinness PRO14 team and management have all tested negative for the Covid-19 virus after returning to SA from a tour to Ireland and Wales.

This was announced by the Cheetahs after fears that players might have been exposed to the virus when they played Ulster in Ireland and the Dragons in Wales.

“In reaction to President Cyril Ramaphosas message on Sunday evening, the Cheetahs team and management who returned from a tour to Ireland and Wales were all tested for Covid-19 and the results were negative,” the Cheetahs said in a statement.

“The responsible thing to do was to test the travelling squad, and the players, management and their families and colleagues are all relieved that they tested negative.

“After PRO14 announced the suspension of the championship the team continued training.

“The Cheetahs received instructions from SA Rugby that all teams, from school level to  PRO14 and SuperRugby, have to refrain from training as a team until April 14.

“At this stage there is no indication of when the championship will resume, but the players will have to stay fit by training individually.

PRO14 rugby bosses considered playing matches behind closed doors because of Covid-19, but after careful consideration scrapped the idea.

The Isuzu Southern Kings had been scheduled to face Scottish side Edinburgh at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Saturday, but that fixture became one of Covid-19s first victims.

PRO14 tournament director David Jordan said there was a discussion about hosting games without fans, but in the end the health and welfare of players and fans had made it impossible.

The travel restrictions in the five countries that Celtic Rugby operates in also put paid to the idea.

“It certainly was something we considered but if you can’t get teams to and from a venue, then it doesn’t make much sense,” Jordan said.

“It isn’t just the fact that travel restrictions are already in place, it is also the question of whether there will be more travel restrictions in place in a couple of days’ time when you are travelling to other countries.

“The sensible and responsible approach from our point of view is we just have to pause and reflect a bit and monitor the situation.

“We have ways in which we can restart our competition with a bit of an adjustment here and there.

“We can try to get our season completed in some shape or form but we just need to let things develop a bit further before we can make any decisions on how best to achieve that.

“It is a difficult set of circumstances but at the end of the day people’s health comes first.

“From a Celtic Rugby point of view, because we are a union-owned entity we have the support of our national federations.

“It is a challenge from a health point of view and a financial point of view.”

SA Rugby president Mark Alexander said his body would throw its full weight behind the government’s policies and objectives in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We wholeheartedly and without hesitation are completely aligned to the government’s aggressive approach to attempting to curb this pandemic,” Alexander said.

“All rugby has been suspended until the end of April and we have changed our business practices to support the need for social distancing.