Vodacom URC CEO Martin Anayi says the Glasgow Warriors and Ulster may have “brought the bugs” with them to South Africa that resulted in the postponement of two matches.
The Emirates Lions were set to host the Glasgow Warriors at Ellis Park last Saturday, followed by the match between the Cell C Sharks and Ulster at Kings Park.
However, on Friday, the URC released a statement that said “due to gastroenteritis infections it is not possible for Ulster or Glasgow Warriors to field full playing squads”.
The two matches were postponed, rather than cancelled, much to the annoyance of Sharks owner Marco Masotti, who tweeted: “Is this a joke? Must be. Is this a professional sports league? Has this happened in other professional sports leagues? Maybe darts, curling, or pickleball? Just give us the points.”
In a media round table discussion on Wednesday, Anayi said it was “incredibly disappointing for everyone concerned” that the two matches didn’t take place.
“The Sharks had all their Boks available and what they would have been able to put on, off-field as well as on the field, they had a really fantastic fanzone and had really invested in it,” he said.
“The reality is we took medical advice as we always do in these sorts of situations. The view very clearly from an independent doctor was that we had two very sick squads. And there was no opportunity to delay the game by 24 to 48 hours.”
While some blamed Durban’s sewerage crisis for Ulster’s players getting sick (by drinking contaminated water or swimming in the sea), Anayi said an ongoing medical review suggested otherwise.
“Early indications are that there were two separate bugs, one E. coli [Glasgow] and the other Norovirus [Ulster], and there are some indications that they actually brought the bugs with them. So, there’s quite a lot to go into …
“Our rules do state, however, that the games should be played [on a new date, rather than cancelled], which is why the matches are listed as having been postponed.”
However, if new dates cannot be found for the matches, a URC committee will scrutinise the circumstances and decide how the league points should be awarded.
“It’s very difficult to find a time slot and we don’t want to create a situation where a team full of Test players plays against a weakened one,” said Anayi.