COVID outbreak hits South Africa ahead of WAFCON quarterfinal match

The South Africa national team have reported a COVID-19 outbreak in their camp only two days before their Women's Africa Cup of Nations quarterfinal against Tunisia, with the squad already reeling after injury ruled star player Thembi Kgatlana out of the tournament.

South Africa are set to face Tunisia in Rabat on Thursday in a quarterfinal clash that also serves as a World Cup qualifier, but will now have to do so with a depleted squad as they look to reach the 2023 tournament in Australia and New Zealand.

A statement from the South African Football Association, as seen by ESPN, reveals that "a number of players" have tested positive and will miss the meeting with Tunisia, but SAFA have not specified which players will be absent.

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"We had one official who tested positive before [last Thursday's group game against] Burundi," said the team's physician, Dr. Rodney Mokoka. "The official was isolated and treated as she was symptomatic.

"[Then] 48 hours before [Saturday's] Botswana game we had one player who tested positive for COVID-19 and she was also symptomatic," Mokoka continued. "She was put in quarantine and treated accordingly. Her asymptomatic roommate, who tested negative, is in isolation, hence they both missed the Botswana game."

Fellow quarterfinalists Senegal have already endured a COVID setback during the tournament, with several key players ruled out ahead of their group game with hosts Morocco after an outbreak in the camp.

South Africa -- 2018 finalists -- are one of only two teams to have advanced past the group stage with their 100-percent record intact as they look to reach the World Cup for only the second time in their history. However, as well as the unnamed coronavirus absentees, they will also have to see off Tunisia without star forward Kgatlana, who was both top scorer and Player of the Tournament at the 2018 edition of the WAFCON.

SAFA confirmed on Monday that the 26-year-old attacker, who signed for National Women's Soccer League team Racing Louisville FC from Atletico Madrid on July 6, will miss the rest of the tournament after being substituted in some discomfort in their final group game.

"Kgatlana sustained a complete rupture of the left Achilles tendon against Botswana, which was confirmed by the MRI scan this morning," Dr Mokoka said in a statement released by SAFA. "Unfortunately, she will be out for the whole WAFCON 2022 tournament, and she is due for an operation back home in South Africa.

"Post-operation healing will be guided by certain milestones that we have to achieve, of course, [and] a comprehensive functional rehabilitation programme will be in place for her but the quicker we achieve those milestones the quicker she will be back in the field of play."

While Kgatlana, who scored South Africa's opener in their 3-1 victory over Burundi, has departed for home, while fellow forward Jermaine Seoposenwe returned to training on Tuesday after being substituted against Botswana with a "soft tissue injury of the ankle."

"Injuries are a part of sports," Kgatlana wrote on her Twitter handle. "If we can control our emotions of joy, peace and jubilation, so can we control our emotions through disappointments, setbacks and challenges.

"Thank you for all your heartfelt messages, I will be back."