Super Rugby

No longer in limbo, SA Rugby's return to reality starts

Rito Hlungwani (forwards coach), John Dobson (head coach) and Labeeb Levy (skills coach and performance analyst) (Gallo Images)
Rito Hlungwani (forwards coach), John Dobson (head coach) and Labeeb Levy (skills coach and performance analyst) (Gallo Images)
  • SA Rugby's Covid-19 Committee is expected to meet on Monday to finalise and standardise directives for franchises return to training, specifically virus testing.
  • While the federation has already prepared its overall return-to-play protocol, input is still required on what additional measures might need to be considered given government's flaky approach to regulations.
  • Some unions are eager for more clarity on a return for social rugby.

South African rugby might've been lifted out of its lockdown limbo after sports minister, Nathi Mthethwa, announced at the weekend that the sport can return to training, but now the real work starts.

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Sport24 understands that SA Rugby's specialised Covid-19 Committee (Covcom) will convene on Monday with the specific aim of finalising directives for franchises on health and safety procedures.

It's no secret that the federation has had its ducks in a row for some time now, with chief Jurie Roux once again reiterating that a "staged return-to-play protocols" framework was already submitted to government early last month.

The most immediate challenge for franchises relates to comprehensive screening and testing as players return to venues for non-contact training, though Roux said the broader infrastructure for that is already in place.

Rudolf Straeuli, CEO of the Lions, told Sport24 that Ellis Park's comprehensive sanitisation was completed last Wednesday, in part to illustrate the stadium's readiness for the staging of matches behind closed doors in future, but also the expected gathering of players and staff.

The Stormers, even before the weekend's proceedings, announced it was considering a "two-squad system" to minimise the threat of infection once training resumes.

"We will probably start with individuals, then move to stacks, which are groups of seven or eight and then into collective training and then the games," said head coach John Dobson.

"We have to be really careful when we get together as a group, we can control the training facility and we have some really good protocols and plans in place for that."

Meanwhile, the Covcom is also expected to garner input with regards to what SA Rugby representatives should consider in its further consultations with government, particularly in terms of what additional regulations would be required for franchise's to eventually commence with contact training.

Various unions with vibrant club rugby structures, notably the Bulls, are also keen to receive some clarity from government on when social teams could expect to be allowed to start training again.

Nthethwa explicitly noted that training at level three was strictly confined to professional outfits.

There's also still confusion over whether training in government's so-called corona hotspots will remain suspended.

- Compiled by Heinz Schenk    

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