Super Rugby

Could testing be better than a bio-bubble for rugby's resumption?

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The majority of the unions, like the Pumas here, have special agreements in place with private labs for Covid-19 testing
The majority of the unions, like the Pumas here, have special agreements in place with private labs for Covid-19 testing
  • Bulls coach Jake White has revealed that his team doctor, Gerhard Louwrens, believes SA Rugby and unions could save a lot of money by having teams tested weekly instead of creating a bio-bubble.
  • Bio-bubbles are notoriously expensive, with up to 110 members of each team needing to be isolated for weeks. 
  • Should that be the only option, the bubble's location also can be determined through sheer common sense.

While SA Rugby might have to create a bio-bubble for matches to resume without government frowning upon them, there's an intriguing school of thought coming out of Loftus.

Gerhard Louwrens, the Bulls' team doctor, has crunched some numbers and believes the mooted Currie Cup competition could be completed through vigorous Covid-19 testing rather than isolating the competing teams for an expected 14 weeks.

"The doc was saying to me, and this is quite interesting, that it might end up being far cheaper for SA Rugby and the unions to test the players weekly instead of putting everyone in a bubble," Jake White, the Bulls' director of rugby, said.

"You can imagine the expenses of having 45 players and maybe 20 staff members go to a designated city. When the Under-21s are factored in, you probably have 100 to 110 people from just one team being isolated at one hotel."

Instead, SA Rugby could consider following the model adopted by the English Premier League, where teams completed the season by still playing home and away matches and relied on twice-weekly testing.

The majority of local unions have special agreements in place with private laboratories for efficient and expedient testing.

Also, given how diligent all of the unions have been in their efforts to date to keep safe, they could surely be trusted to exercise the necessary discretion. 

"We could, for example, be tested every Wednesday morning. By that evening you can already have the results of your match squad back and receive the necessary clearance from the doctor (or compliance officer) to go and fulfil that fixture," said White.

"Whether you fly on a chartered flight or travel by bus is up to the union but there's probably a lot of money that can be saved."

Such an arrangement could be particularly appropriate for the reported six-week window where only the Super Rugby franchises will compete against each other and will involve travel to only three provinces - Gauteng, the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.

Logistics might become a bit more complex when the Cheetahs, Griquas, Kings and Pumas join in.

Should a bio-bubble be the only acceptable option, even then common sense would dictate that the Super Rugby "portion" of the domestic campaign be held in Gauteng?

"If we have the bubble here, we, for example, can stay at home, still train at Loftus and just travel within Gauteng by bus," said White.

"It's the same with the Lions. Also, you'll only need to accommodate two teams in an isolation hotel. But if we're going to the Cape, then you'll have to isolate and pay for an extra team."