South Africa’s drop to lockdown Level 2 should allow SA Rugby to push forward with its plans for a domestic tournament by mid-September.
President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Saturday night that South Africa’s lockdown regulations will be relaxed as the country’s Covid-19 recovery rate has risen and the number of active cases have declined.
The big news for rugby fans is that lockdown Level 2 allows for fixtures to take place in empty stadiums, which will allow SA Rugby to go ahead with its plans for a domestic tournament.
South African rugby players from the eight franchises have been in non-contact training in small groups for the past month. As part of the regulation changes, gym and fitness centres will reopen with strict health and safety protocols in place, meaning that these players can step up their preparations for the domestic tournament.
Several competition formats have been rumoured, including talk of plans to hold the domestic tournament in a bio-bubble in either Cape Town or Johannesburg. However, as Ramaphosa announced that travel between provinces is allowed for any purposes, SA Rugby may not have to play matches in a bio-bubble at one venue.
The latest rumours suggest that Springboks would return to rugby in a six-week ‘domestic’ Vodacom Super Rugby competition, before departing for New Zealand to prepare for the Rugby Championship. South Africa’s Super Rugby and Pro14 teams would then be without their Springboks for a Currie Cup competition involving the Pumas and Griquas, held over eight weeks.
SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux has confirmed the governing body hopes to play its first domestic matches by early to mid-September, although the return to international competition is not yet permitted under the new regulations.