TOKYO: South Africa’s rugby sevens team, whose Olympic preparations have been hard hit by COVID-19, were able to train on Tuesday for the first time since arriving in Japan one week ago, SA Rugby said in a statement.
The Springbok Sevens are among the gold medal favourites but were forced into isolation on arrival in Japan because a passenger on the same plane tested positive and they were deemed close contacts.
Their coach Neil Powell has since tested positive for the novel coronavirus and will miss the Olympic men’s competition from July 26-28.
But the rest of the squad have been cleared and trained at Shiranami Stadium in Kagoshima on Tuesday.
"We are very happy to be out here and breathing in fresh air after a week in our hotel rooms," said Blitzboks captain Siviwe Soyizwapi after two separate isolation periods in Tokyo and Kagoshima.
"This session was supposed to be a low-key one in terms of intensity, but the guys could not help themselves and pushed things up a few notches.
"We decided to process negative news in a positive way and that is what we have done. As a group, it worked for us actually being isolated, as it brought a tight-knit group even closer.
The squad – players and management – took a decision to always take the optimistic route and that certainly helped. The obstacles were different, but we overcame them in our minds already."
Powell is isolating for 14 days, and will continue to help the side he has coached since 2013, albeit through a computer screen, and will liaise with assistant coach Renfred Dazel on match day.
South Africa won a bronze medal at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and they will be among the favourites again. They are in Group C with the United States, Kenya and Ireland.
(Writing by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Ed Osmond)