The Springboks and Kubota Spears player Duane Vermeulen manage to board a last-minute flight out of Japan. Photo: via Reuters
The Springboks and Kubota Spears player Duane Vermeulen manage to board a last-minute flight out of Japan. Photo: via Reuters

WATCH: Springbok stars stranded in Japan after airport chaos

By Jacques van der Westhuyzen Time of article published Mar 26, 2020

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JOHANNESBURG – A number of World Cup winning Springbok stars have been left stranded in Japan and unable to get flights out to South Africa to be with their loved ones.

South Africa goes into “lockdown” tonight to curb peoples’ movements due to the outbreak of the coronavirus and some well-known rugby personalities may not get into the country in time.

World Cup winning stars like Duane Vermeulen, Willie le Roux, Malcolm Marx, RG Snyman, Damian de Allende and Kwagga Smith all play their club rugby in Japan, but the Top League season has been cancelled.

Centre Jesse Kriel appeared to “get out” in time following the cancellation of international flights. 

Speaking to www.springboks.rugby on Wednesday, Kriel said: “Fortunately I was able to fly out of Japan on Tuesday morning,” said the centre, who plays for the Canon Eagles. With him in Doha, where he had to wait 21 hours for his connecting flight, was former Bulls coach Frans Ludeke, who is the coach of the Kubota Spears.

Two earlier flights out of Tokyo were cancelled leaving Kriel and Ludeke stranded, but they were “fortunate and relieved”, according to Kriel, to get a re-arranged flight out.

Vermeulen (Kubota Spears), Marx (Shining Arcs), Snyman (Honda Heat) and De Allende (Wild Knights) had their flights out of Japan cancelled, though it is understood Vermeulen eventually boarded a plane on Wednesday afternoon. It is not known whether the other players managed to get back to South Africa.

Former Bok boss Allister Coetzee (Canon Eagles) and several other South Africans ply their trade in Japan, among them are: 

Fred Zeilinga, Riaan Viljoen, Sylvian Mahuza, Ruan Botha, Coenie van Wyk, Lionel Cronje, Jason Jenkins, SP Marais and Paul Schoeman. 

Two other well-known players involved in Japanese rugby, Sunwolves star Gerhard van den Heever and Japan national team captain, Lappies Labuschagne, have also spent the last few years in Japan.

@jacq_west


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