Shining Arcs flank Willie Britz says a moderate Covid-19 lockdown in Japan has made coping with the cancellation of the Top League season easier. DYLAN JACK reports.
Unlike South Africa, Japan is currently not in a lockdown despite their reportedly being over 2500 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the country.
The JRFU, however, did take the precaution of initially suspending the Top League for three weeks before calling off the 2020 season entirely. The All-Japan Championship, contested by the top four teams in the Top League, has also been cancelled.
Britz, who played for the Cheetahs and Lions before joining the Shining Arcs on an initial dual-deal in 2015, told SARugbymag.co.za about his experience of the pandemic in Japan.
‘The lockdown has actually been pretty good in Japan. There is not much of a lockdown going on, actually,’ Britz said. ‘It is just a couple of the schools that have been closed. Some of the company workers can work from home as well. We are just trying to encourage people to not go out too much.
‘There are talks of Tokyo going into lockdown. I think that is just a rumour. But ja, we are still good to wander around. We just must not be stupid and go into the city.
‘I am a bit lucky my mom is here. So we have been here together and are enjoying our time together: going outside, watching a lot of series and reading. It is pretty good.’
However, not every South African player in Japan has had it quite so easy. While Jesse Kriel and Duane Vermeulen were able to return to South Africa before the country’s 21-day lockdown, others such as Britz’s teammates Sylvian Mahuza and Malcolm Marx missed that chance and have been left stranded in Japan for the time being.
‘I really feel for the other boys who are stuck in Japan at the moment, who are really trying to go home. Their families are home alone at the moment. I know Sylvian Mahuza, his mom is on her own at home, and the same with Malcolm Marx. I can understand their frustration at not being able to get home.
‘There is no more rugby for us this year. So some of the boys are trying to go home, but the boarders are locked so they can’t get in. So we have still kept on training, running and doing a bit on the wattbikes. It is just to maintain a bit of fitness while the body is still resting.
‘It has been frustrating. Like all other sports in the world, you train for a year and it only lasts a couple of months. But it is what it is. There is nothing you can do about it. We are still able to train, so we can go to the clubhouse and do a bit of running.’
In order to cope with the loss of revenue due to the break in the season, European clubs and both New Zealand Rugby and Rugby Australia have had to introduce pay cuts to both players and management.
However, Britz said that they are fortunate as the companies that own the Top League clubs have continued to pay the players despite the cancellation of the season.
‘We have been very lucky in Japan. The companies are looking after us really well. They are still paying our salaries, so we haven’t had any financial problems at the moment. I know that other clubs in Europe have been struggling with that, bringing in 20-25% pay cuts. But I don’t see that happening in Japan.’