Olympics-Rugby-More COVID-19 disruption for South Africa's rugby sevens squad

(Reuters) - Five South Africa rugby sevens players who were close contacts of coach Neil Powell will not stay in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Village, officials said on Thursday, meaning more disruption to the preparations of one of the gold medal contenders.

Powell is self-isolating after testing positive for COVID-19 on arrival in Japan last week and will miss the men’s sevens competition that runs from Monday to Wednesday next week, offering support via video link only.

The five unnamed players, who travelled with Powell from Tokyo to the training base in Kagoshima last week, have been barred from the Olympic Village over fears they may be incubating the virus.

They will stay at a separate hotel on the team's return to Tokyo on Friday, though they can train with the squad at the weekend.

"There is not much we can do about that, so we will have to make it work," assistant coach Renfred Dazel said in a statement from South African Rugby on Thursday.

"We have been adapting since we arrived and it is not easy, but credit to everyone who keeps smiles on their faces and working hard."

South Africa are among the favourites to win a gold medal after collecting bronze in Rio de Janeiro five years ago. Dazel was also part of the technical team then so is confident there is the know-how to be successful.

"I am fortunate to have worked with Neil for many seasons now, including at the previous Olympics in Rio. Add the fact that Neil is still in contact with us virtually, so I am quite confident that we can get the best results.

"We have a seven-hour gap between matches, and we will get together on a call to sort out any problems or tactics if needed. We are lucky with a strong leadership group in the squad as well, and all of us are still on the same ticket and drive.

"We have a clear focus, and the guys are really working hard and at good intensity and that is what we needed."

South Africa open their campaign against Ireland on Monday, and will also face Kenya and United States in Pool C.

(Reporting by Nick Said; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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