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Young pays tribute to Cardiff Rugby staff

First Team News | 1st December 2021

Dai Young has paid tribute to Cardiff Rugby’s staff following efforts to get the club home from South Africa.

The Blue and Blacks have been stuck in the Rainbow Nation since the country was placed on the UK’s red list late on Friday and borders closed to arrivals.

Twice they had hoped to depart only to hit stumbling blocks due to the denial of Civil Aviation Authority clearance and positive tests.

However, those who have returned negative tests are scheduled to depart Cape Town for Dublin, Ireland tomorrow morning, with a connecting flight to England.

Young said: “This has been a hugely stressful and difficult time for everyone involved and equally our family, friends and colleagues back home but the efforts of a number of people to secure our return has been phenomenal. 

“Our Rugby Operations Manager, Gafyn Cooper and Head of Medical, Dan Jones have been fantastic here in South Africa and worked tirelessly alongside Richard Holland back home.

“Gafyn and Dan have worked tirelessly under enormous emotional pressure while Richard has been brilliant throughout and truly left no stone unturned.

“They have been supported by the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) and South African Rugby Union (SARU), who have been excellent. The support Trystan Bevan has had from Paul Stridgeon (WRU) and John Williams from PAS has also been fantastic, and Phil Davies (WRPA) has been constantly in touch with the boys. 

“The South African medical team supporting Dan and Prav Mathema (WRU) has been fantastic and also Amy Monaghan (URC) with Gaf and Richard. They are the main parties, which we have to say a big thank you to for being there alongside us throughout.”

A travelling party of 42 players and staff will be on the flight out of Cape Town, all of whom have returned a negative PCR prior to travelling to South Africa, two negative Lateral Flow Tests and a further five consecutive PCR tests, all with negative results, in Cape Town

Unfortunately in the time between CAA papers being denied, six individuals have returned positive results and have been transferred to a South African Covid-19 quarantine hotel. It is this that Young has struggled to accept the most.

He continued: “Of course it has been difficult but people’s safety and wellbeing is the most important thing and we’ll be treated the same as everyone else. It’s not ideal for professional sportspeople but it’s par for the course. There are a lot of people experiencing similar, stuck 1,000s of miles from our loved ones and our thoughts are also with them.

“What sits really uncomfortably with me and the biggest thing that upsets me is going home and leaving people out here. As a director of rugby that’s the biggest thing I’m struggling to cope with. 

“If it was an injury one or two of us would definitely stay out here but we are not actually allowed to do that in these circumstances - that doesn’t sit well.

“But they are in really good hands, the doctor is checking on them twice a day and all the medical things are in place if there were any issues, which there’s not.

“Thankfully all the guys staying behind remain in good spirits and any symptoms they have are mild. They will support each other and the people with SARU, who have been first class, we have total trust.”

Both scheduled URC matches against the Emirates Lions and DHL Stormers were postponed but the club must still fulfil two Heineken Champions Cup encounters against reigning champions Toulouse and English champions Harlequins.

A 10-day period of quarantine ensures the 28 players and 14 staff members will be able to play no part in the European fixtures.

That will undoubtedly be hugely difficult against two of the form teams in Europe but Young will do everything in his power to field a team and he has called on the Blue and Blacks faithful to show their support.

He added: “Anyone from this trip will be ineligible to face Toulouse and Quins but we have got a number of internationals back home and we’ll do everything in our power to honour these fixtures. 

“The team will be made up of the internationals who haven’t come with us and some of our best academy players. I’m confident they will do the jersey proud but we need to Cardiff support to get right behind us. 

“Gruff Rees will lead the team and he will be assisted by Thomas Rhys Thomas and Richie Rees, who remained in Cardiff to coach those not travelling.

“I know they and the boys will want to do it for the boys in quarantine, we will be watching from our rooms and it will be a real boost if we see a packed Arms Park. They will be supporting the boys, those of us in isolation and the club during what has been the most stressful and challenging period I have experienced as a director of rugby. I am confident those players will do the jersey proud.”