Local competition set for October start

A revised double-round domestic competition – dependent on all regulation approvals – is expected to kick off in the first half of October, writes CRAIG LEWIS.

Last Friday, it was confirmed that South Africa’s franchise teams will be able to return to full-contact training from this week, following completion of final health checks.

The Vodacom Bulls, Lions, Sharks, Stormers, Cheetahs, Pumas and Griquas are all expected to head into a restructured competition, with SARugbymag.co.za having reliably learned that 10 October is now the new prospective target date for action to start. In a best-case scenario, though, it could even kick off a week earlier.

It remains to be seen what the rights will be when it comes to it either being a South African Vodacom Super Rugby product or a restructured Currie Cup, but effectively a local tournament finally appears to be in the home straight, with a potential Super Heroes Day set to possibly precede competition kick-off.

Live rugby in South Africa has effectively been in lockdown since mid-March because of the coronavirus, and while the situation has remained extremely fluid, there has been constant dialogue between SA Rugby and government to ensure gradual return to training can take place.

For some time now, franchise players have been conducting non-contact training in small groups, but they should be able to now get through four weeks of contact training before a hopeful resumption of domestic action in October.

As highlighted by the Lions on Monday, for example – and is the case across all teams – mandatory Covid-19 testing for all players will first need to take place, and the squad will then take the field as soon as the results are in.

Of course, it remains a scenario that will require constant monitoring during the pandemic, with regular communication and relevant clarifications between SA Rugby and government required when it comes to meeting and receiving approval for all protocols followed.

Yet, the good news is that October now looks like a feasible start date for South Africa’s local competition, with the final then likely to take place on 16 January should all go according to plan.

This would also allow for the Springbok players to take part in a full-strength competition at the start of October, before what is expected to be a large squad is called up to begin preparation for a revised Rugby Championship.

That tournament start date is set down for 7 November – with travelling players expected to first go through a two-week period of quarantine before competition begins.

Importantly, South Africa’s overseas-based Boks involved in the English Premiership and PRO14 are already back in action, while those in France will return to play in September.

Alternatively, if the Springboks don’t head into the Rugby Championship, there was talk over the weekend that they could feature in the Eight Nations competition, which is set down for a possible start in mid-November.

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Photo: Chris Ricco/BackpagePix

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