South Africa-born forward Johan Meyer talks to MARIETTE ADAMS about the drastic changes to life in his adopted country, Italy, which has been ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic.
Meyer went to Queen’s College and represented the Border Bulldogs and Sharks before making the move to Europe in 2015. Since then he become a mainstay in Zebre’s PRO14 team and a fully capped Test international for the Azzurri.
While China and the USA have recorded the highest number of Covid-19 cases worldwide, Italy has reported the highest death toll with over 8,200 fatalities due to the disease. As a result, Italy’s prime minister has placed the entire country on lockdown in an attempt to stop the spread of Covid-19.
In a candid interview with SA Rugby magazine, Meyer opened up about the challenges that come with living in isolation, the indefinite suspension of the rugby season and the financial consequences that go with it.
‘I’m not coping well. I’m a very social person and love being around people. I find myself on the PlayStation for hours chatting to friends,’ he said.
‘My hope is that this pandemic is resolved so that people can go back to work and start earning money again. That’s most important.’
Due to the unexpected break in play, several English clubs have confirmed the implementation of 25% wage cuts and while neither of the two Italian PRO14 clubs have put in place similar financial measures, Meyer believes it could well be in the pipeline.
‘I don’t think any European clubs are financially equipped to deal with the ramifications of this epidemic. I would support any decisions Zebre make regarding finances as this is a difficult situation for everyone.
‘Personally, I want the rugby season to resume. A lot of work goes into the preparations of these campaigns and I was looking forward to finish this season on a high. But chances of the season going ahead, later in the year, diminish with every passing day.’
The 27-year-old added that while Italy is the grip of Covid-19, his biggest worry is about the potential damage this disease could cause in South Africa.
‘The safety and financial security of my family back home as well as all the other people of South Africa during this uncertain time. Italy has a far better health care system than South Africa and this country is struggling to contain Covid-19 and the consequences of the virus. I hope it doesn’t get so bad in South Africa, because I honestly don’t think the health care system and the economy will survive if it does.’