• Encouraging news on Covid-19 front

    Four of South Africa’s franchises reported minimal Covid-19 positive tests as they returned to full-contact training this week. DYLAN JACK reports.

    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.

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    While the obvious concern is that a return to contact training could result in a potential spread of coronavirus, the good news is that four of the franchises reported minimal positive results from over 100 tests on their respective players and management.

    A Lions spokesperson confirmed to SARugbymag.co.za that none of their players had tested positive.

    Across the Jukskei, the Bulls confirmed that they had five positive tests and only one coach tested positive. However, the Pretoria-based franchise will be conducting another round of testing on Thursday to ensure that there are no false positives.

    The players and coach who did test positive have gone into isolation in the meantime.

    Over in the Western Cape, Stormers forwards coach Rito Hlungwani confirmed during a media conference that they had only reported one positive case from the hundreds of tests conducted on Monday.

    ‘We have got very experienced doctors who are working with us,’ Hlungwani said. ‘They probably more understand the magnitude of this pandemic and that is why we are running quite a strict environment in terms of making sure everyone complies with all the steps and rules that have been put in place.

    ‘On Monday, the doc tested over one hundred players and staff and we had one positive case. From our point of view, it is quite a brilliant result considering everyone goes home and visits family. It shows we are taking this seriously and reducing our social circles.

    ‘The person that has tested positive has been pulled from the group and is currently in quarantine and will come back when the doctor feels that that person is good enough to join the team.’

    Meanwhile, Independent Online reported that the Sharks tested over 100 players, management and administration staff and according to CEO Eduard Coetzee, only a ‘small number’ tested positive.

    ‘It was almost to be expected given the large number of tests done, and we are talking about a small number of positive,’ Coetzee said. ‘The players concerned are asymptomatic and have gone into self-isolation. The rest of the players have been cleared for full contact training.’

    Coetzee confirmed that everybody involved at the Sharks will be tested every Monday and the results will be known within 24 hours, before the appropriate steps are taken.

    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.

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    Photo: Grant Pitcher/Gallo Image

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    Dylan Jack