South Africa’s cricket team head coach Mark Boucher speaks to the press following a team training session at the Supersport Park Cricket Stadium in Centurion, on December 20, 2019, ahead of a four match Test series against England starting on December 26. (Photo by Phill Magakoe / AFP)

South Africa head coach Mark Boucher has revealed he had been a victim of the coronavirus without knowing he had contracted the disease.

Boucher was speaking ahead of limited overs series against England, which starts with the first Twenty20 international in Cape Town on November 27.

An unnamed South African player tested positive for Covid-19 when the South Africans assembled last Wednesday.

Boucher and two others, with whom the infected player had close contact, have been separated from the rest of the squad and are staying in isolation while being monitored by the team’s medical staff.

According to a statement from Cricket South Africa, all three were asymptomatic.

Boucher said he sympathised with the affected players.

“Sitting alone in a room for six or seven days is very tough,” said Boucher, adding that he had been fortunate to have had a mild dose of the disease.

“I didn’t even know I had it,” he said. “I felt a little down for one or two days. I had been throwing down to some players in the nets and felt some aches and pains.”

“Covid is bigger than sport,” said Boucher.

He said that in line with a call from President Cyril Ramaphosa for a period of mourning, he expected flags to be at half-mast during the first two matches in honour of victims of coronavirus and gender-based violence and it was possible that players would wear black armbands.

– ‘Tough issues’ –

But he indicated that it was unlikely players would “take a knee” as they did before a three-team domestic match in July.

“It’s not something we have to continue to show, it’s something that we have to live.”

Boucher said he welcomed the series against England after a bruising winter during which Covid, boardroom battles and controversy over racism dominated headlines.

“We have to put that behind us. We are in a position to put some good news in South African cricket,” he said.

“We had some tough issues to deal with,” he said of a ‘culture camp’ in August, held at a time when fissures in race relations in South African cricket were exposed.

Boucher said he was happy with the outcome of the camp.

“We have started afresh and restructured our values,” he said. “It is all based on performance. We want to be nice and aggressive, but we need to be smart.”

Boucher said he was not concerned about being in a “bio-bubble” until the series ends on December 9.

“We’ve been on tours where there have been security issues which have meant we have had to stay in our hotels.

“We are in a fantastic hotel with lots of open space and we have spoken to other teams that have been in bubbles.”

Playing international matches with no spectators would be an unusual experience, “but there will be no lack of passion and we know that people will be watching us”.

© Agence France-Presse

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