SA Rugby hopes for local action in August

SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux says there is hope that a domestic competition could start in August pending government approval, writes CRAIG LEWIS.

In a unique digital media conference held from Roux’s ‘home office’ on Monday, he spoke about the latest developments in the game during the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic.

Roux explained SA Rugby had gone through extensive planning, which included considering three ‘predictions’ on the direction of the pandemic’s impact on the game.

After it quickly became apparent that a speedy return to action was not going to be possible, there was consideration around the possibility of resuming competition in September, while the third ‘doomsday’ scenario was that no rugby could be played for the remainder of the year.

Roux added that there were extensive negotiations that had taken place with government, while explaining that around a 500-page document about return-to-training and return-to-play plans were with government awaiting feedback and approval.

‘First off, I have to acknowledge the unions and all the staff who have been involved in all our discussions and negotiations at this time, but I must say it has been the best collaboration I have seen in SA Rugby for us to get to get a plan that is workable for us to get through these tough times to fight another day …

‘I can’t fault the government’s process up until now. They have listened to us and given us a lot of air time and consideration about returns.’

With the move to alert level 3 in South Africa and the possibility of rugby’s return to training in June, Roux said they were cautiously optimistic they could now restart a domestic competition in the not-too-distant future.

‘We are aware that we need at least four to six weeks of training for the players to be ready to head back on to the pitch, but hopefully we will be able to do that over the next month and a half, and then possibly return to play in August, which would be a big win for us and a month earlier than we planned for [scenario two].

‘We really hope that can happen, and realistically it is becoming a better chance because by all indications the [pandemic] spike is moving earlier than anticipated, and the sooner that happens – as bad as it may sound – the faster we can also move on and get past the pandemic to a point where we can play again.’

Roux confirmed the plan once they were able to return to action would be for a domestic competition to take place, which could also include the Cheetahs and Kings.

‘There is planning to have a home-based, truncated domestic version of Super Rugby for a period of time, then go into a Currie Cup competition and a U21 competition, then follow that with internationals – pending decisions on those and border restrictions.’

Roux added that the Tests meant to be played in July would be moved to October, while there were various other plans for international rugby.

However, he reiterated that the situation remained fluid and that there were various possibilities to be considered.

‘The postponed July Tests could still take place here in October; our northern-hemisphere tour in November has not been cancelled and the possibility of playing the Rugby Championship at a single venue in “a bubble” has also been workshopped.

‘But as those all remain unconfirmed and reliant on factors outside our control. But we also have a few other ideas up our sleeve, which we’re quite excited about, and will announce if and when they become necessary.’

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