CARDIFF and the Scarlets are making plans to return to Wales as soon as possible after South Africa was added to the UK Government’s travel red list.

The Welsh clubs were set to play United Rugby Championship games this weekend with the Scarlets taking on the Sharks in Durban tomorrow and Cardiff going up against the Lions in Johannesburg on Sunday.

However, after UK officials warned of a new variant of the virus, both clubs issued short statements overnight stressing they are working on returning to the UK as soon as possible.

Cardiff said they are “looking to repatriate our staff ASAP”, adding that “our focus is to ensure the safety and welfare of our people”.

Scarlets said: “Following the news of a new COVID-19 variant in South Africa, Scarlets would like to assure families and friends that we are making every effort to get our touring party back home to the UK as soon as possible.”

The duo face a period of isolation before the planned start of the European Champions Cup campaign.

The South African sides started the first five-game block of the URC in Europe and the initial plan was for them to return for this pair of fixtures but that changed when the country was taken off the UK red list.

Irish province Munster and Italian club Zebre Parma are also in South Africa ahead of fixtures against the Bulls and Stormers respectively, UK officials warned on Thursday night that the new variant of the virus that causes Covid-19 has the potential to evade immunity built up by vaccination or prior infection.

Sajid Javid, the UK Health Secretary, said that flights to England from South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Eswatini and Zimbabwe will be suspended from midday Friday and all six countries will be added to the red list.

The Joburg Open golf tournament, part of the European Tour, is also ongoing in South Africa, so withdrawals could be expected there.