Super Rugby

Rugby, when will I see you again?

Those of us old enough are pretty sure to remember the big 1974 soul hit by The Three Degrees "When will I see you again?".

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It has become a major question pertinent to rugby supporters - and of course other sports aficionados worldwide - in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

There's a certain irony in the reasonably well-rooted southern hemisphere campaign being shut down when it is: before Super Rugby came on the scene, this is roughly the time of year a season would, by contrast, only be starting to take shape.

In my neck of the woods, for example, we'd probably be contemplating (in an only slight overlap with the embers of cricket season) the history-laden Villagers v Hamiltons club derby pipe-opener, just ahead of the Grand and Town Challenge campaigns kicking off in early April ... and the Currie Cup reasonably hot on their heels.

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The cruel but necessary cut to Super Rugby comes with teams having played either six or seven matches already, not too far off the midway point of scheduled 16-match ordinary season.

So we go into an eerie limbo, with Sanzaar CEO Andy Marinos on record as saying a gap of anything more than five weeks or so would probably scupper the whole 2020 tournament.

Without any scientific basis for saying so, but powered by a strong sense of gut feel, my fancy is that anything within that is wishful thinking, regrettably.

I also don't feel the Crusaders' successful, highly-regarded coach Scott Robertson had applied his mind quite enough to the bigger picture when he started suggesting solutions to ongoing physical readiness by professional players.

Apart from indicating that his own charges would remain in squad training mode from Monday, he added: "It's important that guys play rugby ... and club rugby is a great possibility."

Pardon my personal cynicism, but given the increasing urge globally toward "social distancing" as a measure to slow the spread of the virus, I struggle to see how any rugby at all is going to flourish for much longer under present circumstances: it is a high-energy, high-impact sport almost unique for the levels of close bodily contact and associated, inevitable transfer of bodily fluids.

We're in shutdown.

Take care and be strong, rugby folk ... and everyone.

Eventually we will beat this foe and have another, unusually poignant kick-off.

*Rob Houwing is Sport24's chief writer. Follow him on Twitter: @RobHouwing