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The concept of a “bio safe environment” has proved successful for professional football in Europe and Test cricket in England in particular. Now the concept will be used in South Africa to try and get professional rugby back on its feet again. Last month, the eight franchise teams were allowed to resume training but there were still restrictions on matches being played. Now the government has approved conditions for actual competitive matches. The news comes at a time when Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber is concerned that his players will have received very little game time ahead of the scheduled start of the shortened Rugby Championship in October. New Zealand and Australian teams have been involved in local tournaments since June, and Nienaber is concerned the Springboks will be unprepared for the rigours of top flight rugby. It’s not clear when local teams will start playing again, but it’s unlikely they’ll see any action in August as the players still need time to get into condition. While Nienaber can rely on the fitness of some of the overseas-based players, he will need local players in his squad. They’re in a race against time to get ready for the international season. – David O’Sullivan
From SA Rugby:
SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux welcomed the news from the South African Government that rugby has been given the green light to return to the playing field, under certain conditions.
The news was gazetted by Mr Nathi Mthethwa, the Minister for Sports, Arts and Culture, on Thursday. It allows for a return to competitive action subject to compliance with measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
The directions stipulate that contact training, and matches can be played in empty stadiums, with only limited people allowed to attend games as part of essential services to make these events possible and from within a “bio safe environment”.
“Since the start of this pandemic, we have been working hard at ensuring we get back on the field and we’ve kept the Government informed on our plans throughout the process,” said Roux.
“We are very grateful for the opportunity to move to the next phase of our return-to-play plans and will provide the Department with all the necessary information required, such as venues for matches, to ensure a smooth transition to competitive rugby.
“Having said that, our eight franchise teams that returned to the training field recently still need a few more weeks of preparation before they will be ready for matches, and from SA Rugby’s side we will assist them with whatever is necessary.
“At this stage, we hope to have our first matches by early to mid-September and our plans on the structure of the planned competition will be announced in due course, as we have various options to consider.”
The Vodacom Bulls, Emirates Lions, Cell C Sharks, DHL Stormers, Toyota Cheetahs, Southern Kings, Tafel Lager Griquas and Phakisa Pumas all started with non-contact training a few weeks ago.
The return to international competition is not permitted under the new regulations, but Roux said he understood the Government’s need to phase any return to normality.
“We know the World Rugby window for the Castle Lager Rugby Championship is only in November and December, so we’re hopeful that in due course the government will be in a position to further relax the restrictions,” said Roux.
“For now, it’s the most important thing is to ensure we get the action underway as we have many stakeholders, such as our broadcast partner, competition and team sponsors and our supporters, who are keen to see rugby again.”
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