Glasgow Warriors’ postponed game in South Africa may not be played - which would be bad news for the Scots

The head of the United Rugby Championship has admitted it will be “very difficult” to find slots in the calendar to play Glasgow Warriors’ match against the the Emirates Lions in Johannesburg, which was postponed at the weekend after a bug swept through the Glasgow squad.
Martin Anayi, chief executive of the BKT United Rugby Championship.Martin Anayi, chief executive of the BKT United Rugby Championship.
Martin Anayi, chief executive of the BKT United Rugby Championship.

Remarkably, it was one of two URC games called off in South Africa, with Ulster’s match against the Sharks in Durban also postponed due to sickness in the Irish club’s camp. Martin Anayi, the URC chief executive, said the league’s sporting committee is looking into ways to stage the games but sounded a note of caution. He also said a medical review was taking place into the circumstances surrounding the postponements.

If no date can be found in the congested calendar then the league will look at precedent from postponements in recent seasons in the European competitions. That would mean bad news for Glasgow and Ulster with points likely to be awarded to the teams that were able to take the field.

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“It was incredibly disappointing for everybody concerned that we didn’t get those games,” said Anayi during a media call for the BKT United Rugby Championship. “The reality is that we took medical advice as we always do in these situations. The view very clearly from that independent doctor was that we had two very sick squads. It really was quite stark. There was no opportunity to delay the game for 24 to 48 hours. The independent doctor felt that both squads had a significant amount of guys down with a serious bug.

The Glasgow Warriors squad was laid low with severe gastrointestinal illness. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)The Glasgow Warriors squad was laid low with severe gastrointestinal illness. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)
The Glasgow Warriors squad was laid low with severe gastrointestinal illness. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)

“The review is ongoing but early indications are that it is two separate bugs, one E. coli and one norovirus, effectively. And there are some indications that they actually brought it with them, so there is quite a lot to go into the medical review which is ongoing and we’ll be looking into that. Our rules do state, however, that games should be replayed so that’s why the matches are listed as being postponed.”

However, Anayi said finding new dates was a huge challenge and he didn’t want a situation where the game is played when one team is fully stocked with its international players and the other isn’t.

“It is difficult to find a slot in the schedule,” said Anayi. “We don’t like playing during international weekends. Our rules say that they should be played where possible. [But] it’s very difficult to get a space in the calendar and we don’t really want mismatches so we don’t want to put a game on where the Boks are there but the international players on the other side are not there, and vice versa. So that’s why it’s important that it’s a sporting committee decision because it’s not commercial, it’s a sporting decision whether that game should be played and if it can be equitably played is important.”

During the Covid pandemic, several matches in the European club competitions run by the EPCR were postponed due to outbreaks of coronavirus among squads. Teams who were unable to fulfil fixtures lost points and Anayi said this method could be used in the case of Glasgow and Ulster if no dates can be found to play the games.

“EPCR has precedent in the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup last season when they couldn’t play games, awarding points to the teams that could take the field. So we will put all of that towards the sporting committee. Ideally, there is a slot where we can replay the games. If there is a reason for us not to play the games the sporting committee will decide what happens next.”

Glasgow have returned home safely from South Africa and have begun preparing for Friday’s match with Benetton. The club said that 32 members of the travelling party became unwell with severe gastrointestinal illness during the tour. The club issued a statement to say they had taken all reasonable steps to control the spread of the bug and suggested floods in the region may have been a factor.

“The symptoms of the illness and transmission behaved like norovirus and this has subsequently been confirmed via medical testing,” said the statement. “The club escalated its infection control behaviours immediately after the first illness was identified and sought out advice from local and Scottish infection control experts throughout the tour.

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“Durban coast is also currently colonised with E. Coli following the tragic floods in the region earlier this year and Glasgow Warriors took steps to mitigate exposure. Although present in our sample we await further tests to determine its role in our illness.”



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