Police have told relatives of five rugby players swept out to sea at Port Elizabeth to accept that their relatives are dead, Beeld reported on Tuesday.

“You must accept that they are no longer alive and be prepared for what may happen,” the paper quoted Captain Anton Groenwald from the Swartkops police station telling a meeting with local residents.

“It can be weeks before the bodies wash up and it is possible that they may never emerge.”

Four of the five Motherwell Rugby Club members who were still missing were named as Xolisa Nyembezi, 27, Arthur Peters, 30, Lundi Muleka, 29, and Avuyile Tshabalala, 18. The fifth man could not be named yet as his family had not been informed. The body of one of their teammates, Msixole Myosana, 29, was pulled from the water on Sunday.

Groenwald was further quoted telling relatives: “I'm sorry to say this, but it is also possible that sharks and other sea creatures have mutilated the bodies, and you must be prepared for this.”

The team had apparently taken to the water on Sunday to cool down after a rugby practice, when they were caught in a rip current. - Sapa