CAPE TOWN – There was great relief for the Springbok Sevens Olympic side on Friday after 17 members of their 18-man squad were cleared and released from Covid-19 quarantine in Tokyo.
The Blitzboks are now able to travel to Kagoshima City to hold their pre-tournament camp ahead of their opening Tokyo Olympics clash against Ireland on July 26.
Captain Siviwe Soyizwapi and his team had travelled from Doha to Tokyo earlier this week, but upon arrival in the Japanese capital, they were taken to a Covid-19 quarantine site near the Olympic Village.
The authorities had deemed that the South Africans should be considered as close contacts to another passenger who had tested positive for the coronavirus.
“The South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) confirmed that following a process of review and thorough assessment of the circumstances, 17 of the 18 squad members are no longer deemed close contacts, and were cleared to continue participation for the Games under the same guidelines as other participants,” SA Rugby said in a statement on Friday.
“One management member, Ashley Evert, was deemed to be a close contact and will remain in quarantine under the revised guidelines. He will join up with the squad at the Olympic Village in Tokyo, once cleared following the relevant Covid protocols.”
This was not the start that coach Neil Powell would’ve wanted to the Blitzboks’ quest for Olympic gold, having claimed a bronze medal at Rio 2016.
But he said that his squad will be ready to deal with any difficulty that they might encounter, and also praised the efforts of the Team SA and South African embassy officials.
“We are in a good space, despite the upheavals we encountered once we arrived,” Powell said upon arrival in Tokyo.
“We have made a commitment to each other when we started this campaign that we will be mentally strong as well, and that was tested with this episode. Adaptability – both mental and physical – will be key at this Olympics and we already felt that when we arrived.
“We took a knock, but I can say the players took it in their stride. We can only control the controllable, so we remain positive. We will still have a training session while we wait for clearance, the only difference is it will be via Zoom call with the players in their rooms.
“It was heartening to see everyone came to help when we needed help, it just again proved to me what we can achieve when all of us work together.”