SA Rugby reacts to Covid-19 crisis

As the world reels under the impact of Covid-19, global sport has been particularly hard-hit. It’s interesting to see how the big sporting bodies have responded to the growing pandemic. Most of them have quickly and emphatically cancelled their events, others have dithered in making a decision. In the United States, the National Basketball Association brought their season to a screeching halt last week, which set the tone for other sporting codes around the world to rethink their activities. If it’s serious enough for the NBA, it’s serious enough for everybody else. One of the world’s leading mountain bike races, the Cape Epic, faced some criticism for delaying its decision to cancel the 2020 event just 40 hours before it started. The PSL has suspended all midweek and weekend football matches with immediate effect. Super Rugby was halted on Saturday until further notice. The Two Oceans Marathon was cancelled, which will have a significant impact on the Cape Town economy. The Over-50 Cricket World Cup in Cape Town (not one of the big sporting events) was also called off. Now the challenge is how to restructure the sporting calendar. Italy’s top-flight football league, Serie A, is considering splitting the current campaign over two seasons. There’s been no word yet on the fate of England’s Premier League with Liverpool fans panicking that the season will be cancelled just as they were two wins away from breaking a 30-year drought. – David O’Sullivan

From SARugby

SA Rugby on Monday suspended all national team training camps and business travel as part of a raft of measures in response to the global Covid-19 pandemic.

Scheduled Springbok alignment camps, Springbok Men’s and Women’s training camps and the SA Rugby Under-20 preparations have all been suspended until 14 April.

In addition, the SuperSport Rugby Challenge – scheduled to kick off on the weekend of 24/25 April – has been postponed until further notice and the club level Gold Cup competition is being re-assessed with a view to postponement.

The Springboks’ Castle Lager Incoming Series Tests in July (against Scotland and Georgia), Youth Week tournaments and Currie Cup remain as scheduled but will be reviewed in April.

The latest updates come following the suspension of the Vodacom Super Rugby and Guinness PRO14 international club competitions; the postponement of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series event for women in Stellenbosch, and the cancellation of two Under-20 international events featuring the Junior Springboks.

Members of the Springbok Sevens team – which recently competed in events in Los Angeles and Vancouver – are being tested for the virus having come into contact with the Australian men’s sevens team, two of whom have tested positive for the virus.

Several members of the Under-20 squad – who had travelled individually from clubs in Europe – will also be tested.

The president has called on South African society to join together in fighting this pandemic and we will do everything we can to assist that campaign and protect the health of the rugby community,” said Jurie Roux, SA Rugby CEO.

“Rugby is sport with a high degree of physical contact and by its very nature is the opposite of the recommended ‘social distancing’.

“We have therefore suspended all national team activities and instructed managements to put athletes on individual training regimes – away from high risk areas such as gymnasiums – to lower the risk of infection.

“The intention is that they will resume group preparation from 14 April to allow two weeks’ of re-integration before taking on competitive action.”

Roux said that similar advice was to be given to SA Rugby’s 14 provincial member unions – as well as the Schools Rugby Association and other associate members – with a view to all competitive rugby action ceasing across the country until 25 April at the earliest.

SA Rugby also suspended all international travel until May and all domestic travel until 14 April (unless the latter was business critical). All committee meetings will take place by teleconference. Training and education programmes for coaches, referees and rugby safety (BokSmart) participants would be postponed or delivered by videoconferencing.

Meanwhile Roux said that background planning was underway to resume the Vodacom Super Rugby and Guinness PRO14 competitions before season’s end.

“This is a highly fluid situation and we are planning against certain unknowables, but we have not given up on either competition and are working with partners internationally to resume the competitions within the constraints of health, common sense and any statutory restrictions,” said Roux.

“For the moment the SA Rugby offices will remain open but, like everything else, we will continue to review the situation on a daily basis.

“This is an unprecedented crisis, but we have to continue to work for when the peak has passed us, as, in the words of President Ramaphosa, we will get through this.”


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