• Head to Head: What gives way in 2020?

    Wade Pretorius and Craig Lewis debate the way forward for rugby in 2020 as competitions face up to the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic.

    Pretorius says complete the franchise competitions at all costs.

    Trying to predict when rugby will return and if that will indeed even be in 2020, should be on the plate of someone of far higher importance.

    With the game in lockdown and the Covid-19 pandemic anything but contained around the globe, we are unfortunately left with nothing much else to do than rewatch old games and speculate on implications of rugby’s return date.

    I have been a little taken aback by the Sanzaar alliance’s stance on the matter. Instead of holding off on talk of what might occur, they have hyped up the rumour mill by suggesting they are working – yes, maybe not at full speed – at resuming play in some format as soon as possible. You’d think they would give the players time off – we all know the battered bodies of rugby’s elite need every week they can get – and wait for the government go-ahead.

    The players will stay fit on their own, they are after all paid to do so, and could return to the park with two weeks notice.

    With that out of the way, let’s get to my thinking … the return in any form isn’t happening soon. It’s hard to see pro rugby on our TV screens before June. So, something has to fall away in the calendar. We’ve just had the World Cup and with continuous years of in- and outbound tours, a break in 2020 would do little to no harm.

    Make no mistake. There is going to a massive financial fallout from the pandemic, but you’d think that national unions are far better equipped to deal with it than, say, the various franchises around the world.

    Vodacom Super Rugby hasn’t been this exciting in years with the Sharks topping the table and the top Kiwi sides looking beatable. Even the Brumbies don’t look half bad. If something has got to fall by the wayside, let it be a pretty ordinary international calendar … it would certainly build hype around the season to come which features the British & Irish Lions tour to South Africa. Absence makes the heart grow fonder and all that.

    Let Super Rugby and the equivalent European competitions run deep into the year. I’m not sure what more local derbies will add? If that’s the case, then shelve Super Rugby for the year. But if you are talking about playing out the current competition, then surely that will be giving fans around the world what they want and didn’t know they needed.

    Another disclaimer to end with. Let’s hope all unions and national organisations align their returns with what government protocol dictates and that fan safety is prioritised. Stay safe out there, people.

    READ: U20 Championships cancelled

    Lewis hopes competitive action can resume with the Rugby Championship later in the year.

    These are unprecedented times.

    On Friday, the U20 Championships was cancelled. For a tournament set to be hosted in Italy, this was always expected to be the case, but it actually broke from the norm of most events being postponed with the hope of being rescheduled at a later date.

    Yet, I think cancellations accurately reflect the severity of the situation all of us find ourselves in following the outbreak of the dire coronavirus pandemic.

    Of course, there are pressures of broadcast agreements, while unions and governing bodies are now facing massive financial concerns, but there are greater factors at play.

    Trying to restructure Vodacom Super Rugby or other competitions seems implausible at present. The escalation of the Covid-19 pandemic requires the unfortunate action of scrapping these events.

    To restart competitions after weeks or months of inactivity would make little sense – with all momentum lost – while players will not be able to train to the required standards for some time.

    A World Rugby statement released on Friday stated that the final two tournaments of the Sevens Series will be postponed provisionally until September.

    One can only hope that this allows for a five-month period where health and safety precautions allow for sport to finally resume as per normal.

    It’s then that I hope the Rugby Championship can get under way, even if it’s delayed by a month from its original scheduled starting date of 8 August. Around this time, the final stages of the Six Nations could also take place.

    Unfortunately, the 2020 Super Rugby season and several other events will have to be sacrificed in these extraordinary times, but hopefully order can be restored in a few months’ time with some highly anticipated international action.