Vodacom Bulls flyhalf Morne Steyn was not considered for selection as he completes a precautionary isolation due to close-contact related Covid-19 protocols. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
On Thursday, it was confirmed in the Bulls team announcement that Chris Smith will earn his first start at flyhalf when the Pretoria-based side host the Pumas in their final Super Rugby Unlocked match on Saturday.
The Bulls are all but assured of claiming the Unlocked trophy, and when touching on the team changes for this final clash in round one of the local season, coach Jake White explained that Steyn was not considered due to the safety protocols that govern the current Covid-19 climate.
‘He was in close contact [with regard to a positive coronavirus case], and he will be tested again tomorrow, but we just decided that we will leave him out completely and rather go with someone else as opposed to having him in half in, half out this week.
‘His child was christened last Sunday and it subsequently emerged that one person who was part of the sermon tested positive. We didn’t train on Monday and on Tuesday our whole squad was tested including Morne. But we decided not to risk him. He’ll be tested again on Friday just to see if he’s still doing well. All our players tested negative, we’re ready to play.’
All teams have been challenged by the potentially disruptive influence of Covid-19 infections, with three games this season already having been cancelled due to outbreaks.
White said it was certainly something that factored heavily into the team’s planning and preparations.
‘For everybody it’s the same, you have to think on your feet. Players have to be resilient, and we have to be able to adapt. You also have to understand that some things are out of your control.
‘However, the protocols are pretty simple, and we know that on Mondays and Tuesdays we should be staying out of small groups, scrumming, mauling and contact sessions. Then we get tested on Tuesday – which is the earliest it can be, because it has to be 48 hours after your game – and then we generally only get the results late Tuesday night, or first thing Wednesday morning.
‘So we then get into our full-on training from Wednesday and Thursday, with a captain’s run on Friday. Then you are assured that everyone at training is negative.
‘As we get deeper into the season, you realise it’s obvious that you have to be a bit smarter, and even if you’re maybe not as prepared as you’d like to be in terms of how much contact training you can do at the start of the week, you’d rather have your entire team negative from a Covid point of view, and all available for selection.’
With the Currie Cup set to kick off next weekend, and no place in a congested schedule for games to be rescheduled, White says it’s an important reminder of the need to strictly adhere to all safety protocols.
‘We can control our own destiny now considering we will play this weekend, hopefully get a result, and will have played one more game than some teams and so we really need to ensure we stay Covid free and then give ourselves a chance to play every game going forward.
‘Otherwise you could potentially lose out on a place in the playoffs if you’re missing games due to Covid cases.’