Lockdown relaxation is great news, but time is running out for SA Rugby to return to the field
DURBAN – The move to level two lockdown has been gratefully received but even better news for rugby in this country would be an okay from the government for contact training to resume.
Time is running out for South African rugby to get back on the field of play, and on Thursday it will be two weeks since SA Rugby submitted its plans for return-to-contact/play to the government.
This was after Sports Minister Mr Nathi Mthethwa on August 6 gazetted a return to competitive action subject to compliance with measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
SA Rugby responded with its plans but to date, the green light has not come. And it needs to come this week so that the country’s players can get down to the serious business of getting battle-ready for game situations.
As it stands, players across the country can train only in groups of five and the sternest contact they can take is tackle bags.
Meanwhile, football in South Africa, also classified as a contact sport, is into its third week of play while rugby in the Northern Hemisphere resumed this weekend and, most relevant to South African rugby, New Zealand has already finished its post-lockdown competition, the Aotearoa Cup, and in Australia, Super Rugby AU is well past the halfway mark.
South Africa’s players will be feeling they are being left behind, and if they don’t get going soon there are serious concerns that the Springboks will not be competitive in the Rugby Championship that is scheduled for New Zealand in November.
Springbok coach Jacque Nienaber has stated that he cannot take Springbok players to the Rugby Championship that have not had at least six Currie Cup games under the belt, and if that is to happen, the Currie Cup has to begin by mid-September.
SA Rugby said on August 6 that their plan for the Currie Cup has an “early September” kick-off but with the delay in receiving the go-ahead for contact training, that date is likely to be pushed back —the Currie Cup coaches across the board feel that players need at least four weeks of contact training before they will be ready to play a match.
Also, the later the Currie Cup kicks off, the less chance of there being a full-blown, double-round competition given that the final needs to take place a week before Christmas.