‘Stress levels are a bit high’

Stormers coach John Dobson says the players are desperate to get back into action as soon as it’s safe to do so in order to retain a sense of job security, writes CRAIG LEWIS.

As the game remains in a state of indefinite ‘lockdown’ due to the coronavirus, it remains unclear when some form of competition will be able to resume.

Over the weekend, it was reported that SA Rugby had compiled and presented a radically-changed calendar for the 2020 season, with the hope of returning to on-field action on 5 June with a restructured domestic competition.

ALSO READ: SA Rugby banking on June return

It’s followed other rumours that players could lose up to 40% of their salaries.

‘We still need to quantify the impact [of no rugby being played] and it will be based on the worst-case scenario for SA Rugby,’ MyPlayers CEO Eugene Henning has commented.

‘The next step is to decide how much to cut salaries. It will then be submitted to players’ representatives for approval.’

Last week, a set of player representatives unanimously voted for collective representation in Covid-19 talks and a cost-saving plan was formulated in principle, with Stormers and Bok star Pieter-Steph du Toit conceding that everyone would have to make sacrifices.

Various degrees of pay cuts and staff restructuring have already taken place across world rugby, with New Zealand Rugby announcing on Thursday that they had opted to freeze 50% of forecasted player payments in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

ALSO READ: ‘We had to act now’ – NZ Rugby

In a Zoom chat with SARugbymag.co.za this week, Dobson discussed how players in the Stormers camp were managing lockdown, and admitted it was a tense time.

‘I think you’re right to allude to the fact they are quite stressed, there’s rumours of pay cuts and they don’t know when we’ll be getting back on to the field. They also know they are going backwards physically from a rugby-conditioning point of view.

‘So the stress levels are understandably a bit high, and I think they’d just be grateful to get back on to the field because I think it would provide an element of job security …’

It also remains to be seen whether a restructured local rugby competition would actually be able to be played in front of supporters, or whether it would have to take place behind closed doors.

Dobson admits this would be another mental challenge to be addressed in due course should that be the case.

‘I do think it would be quite disconcerting running out into an empty stadium … we’d have to get our heads around that.’

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Craig Lewis