SA suffer major COSAFA Cup blow

SA National Teams

South Africa coach Helman Mkhalele will be absent for the remainder of the COSAFA Cup group stage after he tested positive for Covid-19 earlier this week. 

Mkhalele and goalkeeper coach Lucky Shiburi were notable absentees during South Africa's 1-0 win over Botswana on Tuesday after the pair tested positive for Covid-19 ahead of the nation's opening match, with assistant manager Morena Ramoreboli standing in for the encounter.

Team doctor Tshepo Molobi has since confirmed that both Mkhalele and Shiburi have been forced into self-isolation for a period of ten days, spanning until next week Thursday, which effectively means both coaches will miss all three of South Africa's remaining group stage fixtures. 

"On Monday, the entire team did antigen tests, which is deemed a screening test, and based on that we decided to do a confirmatory test on coach Helman Mkhalele and Lucky Shiburi on the same day," Molobi said ahead of South Africa's clash against eSwatini.

"We received the results on Tuesday morning, the day of the match [against Botswana] and they did in fact confirm our suspicion of covid positivity.

"Now, that would technically mean isolation for them from Tuesday for the full 10 days of quarantine until next week Wednesday, with de-isolation starting on Thursday. So, at the moment, they have been relocated to a different site identified by the tournament organisers."

South Africa are set to play eSwatini on Thursday before meeting Lesotho and Zambia in their final group stage matches on Tuesday and Wednesday next week, and it remains uncertain if Mkhalele will return to the dugout if Bafana Bafana progress to the semi-finals.

"...From a medical perspective, national protocols suggest that post-quarantine, after the full completion of the 10 days, on day 11 affected individuals can de-isolate, meaning they are no longer deemed infectious," Molobi added.

"So, from a medical perspective, that still holds. Whether or not the coaches will be on the bench, that is purely a coaching and management staff decision."

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