Munster’s Mike Haley still getting back in the groove after South Africa quarantine

Fullback is playing again after being one of 14 players who were caught up in Covid chaos

Munster fullback Mike Haley believes that it has been difficult for players who spent over three weeks in quarantine in South Africa and Ireland to get back to full throttle on the playing field, but the 27-year-old is confident the worst is behind them.

He was one of 14 who got caught up in Munster’s Covid nightmare at the end of November in South Africa when the Omicron variant spread through the country, forcing the postponement of their United Rugby Championship games against the Bulls and the Lions.

“It was tough, I was one of the 14 that was in South Africa. When you’re stuck in isolation, in a room for two weeks over there and then coming back for another 10 days, you lose a bit of fitness.

“It was very tough, there was an element of frustration being stuck in a room for 24 hours a day, it goes around and around in your head - ‘what’s going on here like?’

“The first thing you have to do, once you’re allowed to run you have to get back to being fit enough to be able to enter a training situation so you don’t end up getting injured, because you’re not physically in the right shape.

“First things first, it was getting back to being able to meet the demands and volumes of training the week of a game, then getting the time, the touch and the feel of training.

“It’s just getting as many reps as possible, it goes hand in hand because once you ramp up the volume the tendency is that injuries can crop up and you have to be very careful.

“What we found is that they dealt with it really well, getting us back into the fold, but what showed in my performance at the weekend is that there’s just a bit of rust there.

“You can’t put too much pressure on yourself, there’s going to be mistakes and it’s one of the things people say - mistakes happen in rugby, if you worry about them too much you’ll compound them.

“You just have to brush them off and keep going forward, that’s something in training this week - you’ve got to be like water off a duck’s back, keep going and get the reps in, get the feel and the touch and then the timing goes with it. Then you should be back to where you where.”


But it wasn’t just rugby which was impacted by the trip to South Africa. Haley has two young children and it was very tough on his family, spending three and a half weeks in quarantine on top of the time the squad had already spent in South Africa.

“It was a tough time, having your family back here, but it’s done now and I just want to get a move on, get playing rugby again. You just talk to family, go on FaceTime all the time, chat to the little lad who is coming up to three and he can talk on the phone now, which is nice.

“The missus was there, her mum came out to help and stuff. It wasn’t too bad.

“You find ways to get through, it was quite nice that we were all involved in the team meetings virtually and seeing the boys, the excitement preparing for the Wasps game was really special how it developed.

“And then obviously they pulled out the two performances and it was massive. So, frustrating as it was, there were peaks that could drag you through it and then by the time that was sorted you were back into the fold again.”

Haley is now in his fourth season with Munster. He has started all 64 games he’s played for Munster, always at fullback, and remarkably has played 80 minutes in 53 of those.

Next up is Saturday's derby clash with Ulster. They will shut out Covid and prepare for it as they would with any other match but he knows anything could happen and all the preparation goes down the drain.

“It’s just the times we live in though, isn’t it? You see all the teams are dealing with it across all sports. Everyone is doing their utmost to stay safe, it’s just so infectious that people get it, so you have to be adaptable,” added Haley.

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