SA Rugby hopeful of playing first match by mid-September
DURBAN - The boys are back in town! At last South Africa’s rugby players have been given the governmental go-ahead to lace their boots up in anger and now there will be a race to get toughened up in time for an eight-team Currie Cup that will commence in early to mid-September.
At this stage SA Rugby have not divulged where the competition’s bio bubble will be located, or what the format of the Currie Cup will be, but let’s just rejoice that we are going to get rugby.
The good news came through to SA Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux late yesterday from Minister of Sport Nathi Mthethwa, who has rubber-stamped 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”.
South Africa’s players have been undergoing non-contact training for over a month now, and there has been frustration that they cannot get stuck into each other rather than tackle bags, but they can now train full out.
However, it is going to take time for the players to get used to taking full physical contact and that means the previously planned start date of the first weekend in September will now be pushed out by a week or two.
“Our eight franchise teams 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,” Roux said.
“At this stage, we hope to have our first matches by early to mid-September and our plans on the structure of the competition will be announced in due course, as we have various options to consider.
“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.”
The Bulls, Lions, Sharks, Stormers, Cheetahs, Southern Kings, Griquas and Pumas will constitute a Currie Cup that is expected to go through to mid-December.
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, the most important thing is to ensure we get playing as we have many stakeholders, such as our broadcast partner, competition and team sponsors and our supporters, who are keen to see rugby again.”