Super Rugby

Being a Super Rugby player in the time of coronavirus

John Dobson (Gallo Images)
John Dobson (Gallo Images)

If the Sanzaar hope expressed earlier this week that the Super Rugby teams may shortly be able to return from the coronavirus induced suspension in a regional format is realised, there may need to be cognisance taken of the need to get them on the level when it comes to preparation.

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While the Stormers and the Sharks have continued working on their conditioning and individual skills according to the strict guidelines and protocols put in place by Saru in the safe environment offered by their training headquarters, the Lions and Bulls are quarantining in isolation after returning from Australasia at the start of the week.

According to, the inland teams will remain in quarantine until they have been back from their tour for two weeks. A fortnight may not seem like a long time to be away from the training field, but it would be in the admittedly unlikely event that they are called into action at the end of the following week.

The Stormers and the Sharks would have an advantage over them if that was the case just because they haven’t had their training program as interrupted as the other two teams. That does not mean though that the two coastal sides will have had a chance to recalibrate their respective approaches, something that from what we have seen so far may be necessary for the Stormers but not the Sharks, for there will be no team training until such time as it is deemed appropriate.

"We completely respect the Saru directives but there could come a call for action at some stage so our players have to stay conditioned," said Stormers coach John Dobson earlier in the week in explaining why his team is still training at the High-Performance Centre in Bellville.

"The safest gym is our gym. There will be no team training and no meetings. But the guys can do individual work, such as catching high balls, they can work on their defensive tracking by themselves, with the coaches a couple of metres away."

Dobson stressed that while the players could work together in small pods of up to five, there is no team training in keeping with the directive to respect the need for social distancing.

If you pay attention to the words of Stormers doctor Jason Suter when he describes the measures that have been put in place to ensure that the squad trains in an uncontaminated environment, being a member of a professional rugby squad is probably one of the safest places to be right now.

"What is important is that Sanzaar and Sarfu have provided us with specific guidelines around social distancing, and rugby being a contact sport, it is very difficult to train with any form of social distancing," said Suter.

"So as Dobbo said, there is no team training. However, have to look at this virus in context that HPC probably safer than most places outside in terms of a place to train. So we have banned all individual work at Virgin Active as that presents an unknown population and fluid population, there is no control of social distancing.

"In addition we have changed all our gym guidelines, our cleaning guidelines, to be cognisant of the fact that we are dealing with something that potentially is very contagious. And it also allows us to keep within Sanzaar guidelines. There will be daily temperature checks and daily symptom checks.

"There will be appropriate management if any of the symptom checks become positive. So it allows us to self isolate quickly but more importantly, it allows us to control on a daily basis their contact. The players will work in small groups and respect social distancing while remaining rugby ready.

"We've also increased the number of sanitisers. We are running the HPC like a high care unit. It is a high care unit in terms of the environment we are creating. Players are tested daily. That is just the right thing to do. We can only manage what we can manage by providing the right environment for the players when they are at work, but we are also educating them on what they can do to ensure they stay safe outside this environment. Which of course is a much bigger threat."

Suter added that any player who felt before coming into work that he might have coronavirus symptoms would contact the management and would be tested outside of the team environment.

"No player will come into the HPC with any symptoms whatsoever. There will be a telephonic consult if there are any signs of the virus. We will ask them the four World Health Organisation questions and if two are positive we will regard them as a suspected Covid case. They will be sent straight to the drive-through assessment centre for a swab so there is no contact with anybody. They then go back to self-isolation and if the test comes back positive we will manage them appropriately."

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