Malcolm Marx may have to wait another two weeks before he can fly back to South Africa from Japan, reports JON CARDINELLI.
Should Japan – and more specifically the Japan Rugby Football Union – have reacted sooner to the threat of the Covid-19 pandemic? Eleven days ago, Duane Vermeulen posted a video on social media after a group of South African players and coaches were left stranded at the airport following the cancellation of their flights back to South Africa.
Vermeulen, Jesse Kriel and several others who ply their trade at Japanese clubs have since managed to make their way back to South Africa and begin the process of self-isolation. The Springbok No 8 said he was relieved to be back home with his family during a challenging time for South Africa and indeed the world at large.
Some haven’t been so lucky, however, and are still waiting to hear when they can leave Japan. While travel restrictions have been eased over the past few days, and there is news that many South Africans are returning from abroad, it may be some time yet before those left in Japan can make the journey.
Marx was among the group of South African players that was left stranded at the airport nearly two weeks ago. The Bok hooker told SARugbymag.co.za that it’s been a frustrating time for him and the others who have been left behind, and that it may be 12 days or more before he can fly back to his family in Johannesburg.
‘We were at the airport and our flight to Cape Town got cancelled,’ Marx recalled. ‘Then another flight we organised to Johannesburg was delayed, and eventually cancelled.
‘We thought we had another option lined up but then that fell through as well. A couple of the South African guys managed to get on another flight, but the rest of us have had to accept the situation and play the waiting game.
‘The plan is for all of the remaining South Africans to travel back together on the next available flight. At the moment it’s looking like we could travel home on 16 or 17 April. Hopefully that comes through.
‘It’s hard to be away from family at a time like this,’ he added. ‘There’s not much you can do, though.’
Marx joined the Shining Arcs on a short-term deal after the 2019 World Cup tournament. He has been based in Urayasu for the better part of five months. The Boks also stayed in the area ahead of the clashes against New Zealand and England during the global competition.
‘We’re fortunate in that we aren’t facing the same restrictions out here,’ he said. Unlike South Africa, Japan is not on lockdown.
‘Movements are more limited in central Tokyo, but out here we’re able to walk to the shops and go to the clubhouse to continue with our training.
‘I had the chance to go home for three weeks after the World Cup, and then again for a week when we had a bye. Otherwise I’ve been here for the most part. The language is tough, although the club has provided us with some lessons.
‘I’ve really enjoyed my time here,’ he added. ‘It’s sad that it had to end this way, but it is what it is.’
Earlier this week, SA Rugby’s head of athletic performance Aled Walters highlighted the importance of remaining fit during this period where no rugby is being played. Marx admits that he will have to adjust when he eventually returns to Johannesburg and is confined to his home.
‘I will probably go into isolation and continue with my training at home,’ he said. ‘I obviously can’t stay match fit or train with other players in that scenario, but I can do my best to stay fit and healthy and work on a few micro-skills.
‘We don’t know when rugby will resume, but we’ve got to do our best to be prepared to hit the ground running.’