• Return-to-training plans under way

    The Sharks are planning to begin restricted non-contact training and gym sessions in smaller groups from Monday, 8 June, writes CRAIG LEWIS.

    On Saturday, SA rugby welcomed the announcement that professional sports teams could begin the process of returning to training under level-3 lockdown easing.

    READ: Hope for rugby’s return to training

    SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux reiterated that a comprehensive, staged return-to-play protocols document had already been submitted to the Department of Sport five weeks ago and that the industry was ready to begin medical screening of players immediately.

    In keeping with this, franchises across the country have begun preparing for a staged return to training, with the Sharks – for example – having outlined to stakeholders that this week was dedicated to the sanitisation of training areas and equipment, as well as the medical testing of all players and team management.

    Should all proceed accordingly, the Sharks are set to begin certain training, conditioning and fitness sessions as they look to safely and gradually begin to get players back up to speed from the second week of June.

    In addition, a Covid-19 management task team has been assembled, led by Sharks CEO Eduard Coetzee and the team doctor, who have put in place stringent measures to ensure all safety, social distancing and hygiene protocols are strictly followed.

    As it stands, further clarity is required when it comes to contact training, but the opportunity to begin regrouping and start crucial conditioning work after weeks of limited activity will be welcomed.

    Of course, it is not a case of ‘one size fits all’.

    SARugbymag.co.za has learned that the Stormers are likely to wait a couple more weeks to seek further clarity before considering reintroducing the squad to phased training.

    Back in May, Stormers coach John Dobson did confirm the Stormers would enforce a ‘two-squad’ system to combat any possible positive Covid-19 infections when a return to training is possible.

    READ: Stormers reveal how ‘new-look’ training would work

    Meanwhile, the Cheetahs are continuing to assess their return-to-training plans, but coach Hawies Fourie has indicated they are also hoping to resume some forms of training on Monday.

    Yet, it’s a different case at the Kings, with coach Robbie Kempson confirming there will be no hasty return to group training and that the squad will continue with phase two of of their reintroduction, but this will take place with the players at home.

    Of course, the severity of the Covid-19 crisis is considerably different from one area of the country to another.

    Each union is believed to have been asked by SA Rugby on Monday to give feedback on their protocols for return to training. The Lions deferred to the statement from the governing body over the weekend, while SARugbymag.co.za is still awaiting feedback from the Vodacom Bulls after enquiries on Tuesday.

    Although competitive action looks likely to remain out of the question until lockdown has reached level 1, Roux welcomed the opportunity to start getting the game back into action.

    ‘This is the news sport has been waiting to hear,’ he commented on Saturday. ‘We will seek further clarity from the department on the application of the guidelines as they apply to contact training.

    ‘But this is an opportunity for our players to enhance their lockdown-training regimes by increasing their fitness work for an eventual return to play.’

    SA Rugby originally announced the suspension of all rugby on 18 March.

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    Craig Lewis