• Covid-19: How rugby has been affected

    As rugby remains in lockdown, we recap how the coronavirus pandemic has impacted the game at international and provincial levels.

    SA RUGBY

    Employers, players, staff and SA Rugby combined in continuity planning aimed at cost saving in the face of expected shortfall in revenues due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

    The plan has been formulated in a joint working group, known as the Covid-19 Management Committee, which includes SA Rugby, the South African Rugby Employers’ Organisation (SAREO), MyPlayers (representing the players) and Sports Employees’ Unite (SEU – the rugby staffs’ trade union).

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    Six Nations

    The final round of Six Nations matches were postponed and it remains unclear when the tournament may be completed.

    ALSO READ: Wales vs Scotland postponed

    PRO14

    PRO14 organisers have taken the ‘unprecedented’ decision to suspend the tournament indefinitely. Resumption of the 2019-20 season will now become a matter of constant review. Due to the unprecedented action of the tournament, no end date to the suspension can be provided at this time.

    SUPER RUGBY

    Sanzaar announced that Vodacom Super Rugby fixtures will be suspended for the foreseeable future.

    SA Rugby, New Zealand Rugby and Rugby Australia have all discussed a domestic finish to the season, but those talks have been put on hold.

    New Zealand Rugby announced that all returning travellers to New Zealand will have to self-isolate for 14 days.

    Rugby Australia CEO Raelene Castle has confirmed that she would take a 50% pay cut, to the tune to $400,000, while the rest of her executive team would cut their salaries by 30% for at least the next three months.

    The Highlanders were the first New Zealand Super Rugby franchise to make staff pay cuts as a result of the pandemic. Highlanders staff have taken a pay cut of 30%, but no one has been laid off.

    New Zealand Rugby has announced grants of $250,000 to each of the five NZ franchises, which are under severe financial pressures.

    SEVENS

    The two Asia-based Sevens Series tournaments in Hong Kong and Singapore have been postponed, with the Singapore Sevens now taking place on 10-11 October and the Hong Kong Sevens completing the series on 16-18 October.

    The upcoming London and Paris Sevens tournaments, scheduled to take place at the end of May, have been postponed to take place later this year.

    The 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, which the Blitzboks were set to take part in, have also been postponed to now take place from 23 July until 8 August 2021.

    The Women’s Sevens Challenger Series in Stellenbosch has also been postponed. The series would have seen the Imbokodo go up against other nations for a place as a core team on the sevens circuit.

    ALSO READ: Olympics set to clash with Lions tour

    JUNIOR SPRINGBOKS

    SA Rugby announced the cancellation of international events featuring the Junior Springboks on Friday.

    This includes the international series featuring the national U20 teams of Georgia and Argentina, as well as the team’s tour to the United Kingdom in May.

    The World Rugby U20 Championships, scheduled to take place in northern Italy, were also cancelled.

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    VARSITY CUP

    The Varsity Cup announced that all fixtures scheduled for Monday, 16 March had been postponed.

    The tournament’s board met on Tuesday, 17 March to outline a plan forward. The outcome from the meeting was that all Varsity Cup matches, including Varsity Young Guns and Varsity Shield, were suspended with immediate effect.

    SCHOOLS RUGBY

    The announcement from President Cyril Ramaphosa that all schools should be closed from 18 March until the end of the Easter weekend has lead to the cancellation of a number of popular schoolboys rugby tournaments for 2020.

    This includes:
    – The Kearsney Easter Rugby Festival
    – The Noord-Suid Rugby tournament
    – The Wildeklawer festival

    JAPANESE TOP LEAGUE

    The Top League was suspended for two weeks and was set to take place in the first weekend of March, before fixtures were again suspended for the rest of the month after a player was arrested for alleged cocaine use.

    The JRFU then took the decision in the final week of March to cancel the 2020 Top League and Top League Challenge entirely.

    READ: World Cup-winning Bok trio stuck in Japan

    PREMIERSHIP RUGBY

    Premiership Rugby called off the Rugby Cup final between the Sale Sharks and Harlequins after a staff member from one of the clubs tested positive for the virus.

    Following this decision, all Premiership matches were postponed, while all competitions below the Premiership were cancelled.

    As a result, the all remaining Championship fixtures were called off and the Newcastle Falcons were promoted to the Premiership.

    The coronavirus has also had a financial impact on the Premiership, with Gloucester, Saracens, Wasps, and the Worcester Warriors all announcing 25% pay cuts, from 1 April, while Bristol Bears also confirmed an undisclosed-size cut. The Leicester Tigers were the sixth club to announce a 25% pay cut.

    The England RFU said its executive board would take cuts of more than 25% and confirmed that head coach Eddie Jones was following suit.

    FRENCH TOP 14

    The Top 14 was suspended due to the coronavirus.

    France has banned gatherings of more than 1,000 people in a bid to contain the spread of the virus.

    USA RUGBY

    USA Rugby officially filed for bankruptcy as the federation’s financial woes have worsened under the pressure of the Covid-19 pandemic.

    In a statement posted on its website, USA Rugby said it had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which allows financially struggling organisations to reorganise and restructure debt.

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