The coaches from South Africa’s seven franchises expressed their delight and excitement at getting the green light to return to contact training.
SA Rugby announced that the Vodacom Bulls, Lions, Sharks, Stormers, Cheetahs, Pumas and Griquas can resume contact training under strict conditions as a possible return to competitive action moves closer.
This comes after the franchises completed specific health checks and protocols on Monday.
Players will require at least three weeks of contact training before a return to competition could be considered safe after such an extended break from the rigours of the game.
SARugbymag.co.za understands that 10 October is now the new prospective target date for action to start. In a best-case scenario, it could even kick off a week earlier.
Speaking to the Springboks’ website, Sharks coach Sean Everitt said his players felt that the return to full-contact training provided a light at the end of the tunnel, after five weeks of non-contact training in small groups.
‘It is really exciting. The players have been hoping for this for quite a while now, and it is certainly a step in the right direction,’ Everitt said.
‘Everyone is excited and sees a light in the tunnel that there is a start in the near future.’
Bulls director of rugby and head coach Jake White admitted that it was a relief and said they had to be smart in phasing in the contact.
‘Obviously we are very happy to be back in some form of official rugby training – it has been challenging to work in little groups. The important thing now is to work out with the conditioning coaches how to gradually bring in all the conditioning and contact aspects that we need to do.
‘So, it will be body suits, contact shields and simulating certain things in the game to build up the confidence and contact, and slowly by the time we kick off, hopefully the boys will be ready.’
Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen echoed that sentiment and said they would also be phasing contact training back slowly.
‘It is a great feeling to get back to contact training,’ Van Rooyen said. ‘The guys have really worked hard on the non-contact aspects of the game in the last few weeks, and it is natural progression to now move to contact training.
‘We will still manage it in our groups of five, as we feel we can control things a lot better that way, and then we will progress from there.’
Pumas coach Jimmy Stonehouse said his charges are looking forward to proving themselves against the Springbok players at the Super Rugby and PRO14 teams.
‘It is great after the long phase of non-contact training and fitness. This is a sure sign that playing matches is the next step. The players cannot wait to prove themselves against one another and we are also thrilled about the possibility of participating in a competition where we may be able to play against some Springbok players.’
Photo: Johan Pretorius/Gallo Images