Many players based at overseas clubs remain subject to local training regimens despite the pandemic and their desire to return to their families in South Africa. JON CARDINELLI reports.
Various leagues and tournaments around the world have been suspended due to concerns around the coronavirus. While teams like the Stormers have taken the warnings to heart, and continue to train behind closed doors and to observe the social-distancing protocols, it is not yet known if competitive matches will resume in the near future.
These are challenging times, and not just for sport. On Sunday, president Cyril Ramaphosa confirmed that schools will close and that gatherings of more than 100 people have been banned. The latter course of action has prompted many companies to instruct their employees to work from home.
Consider how this may affect rugby players with families. While many local players are expected to report for training during this period, their spouses – many of whom work – and children are stuck at home. Concerns about a failing economy as well as those around the virus itself are bound to test even the strongest of family units.
Now consider the magnitude of the challenge for families that are split across two continents.
Earlier this week, the New Zealand media reported that a number of Kiwis have been left stranded at their respective European clubs in the wake of the recently imposed travel restrictions and bans. This website understands that South Africans based in Europe and Japan are facing a similar problem.
Surely these players should be released to be with their families at this time of crisis? MyPlayers CEO Eugene Henning told SARugbymag.co.za that the situation is complicated by the fact that the season has not be cancelled as yet.
‘As is the case locally, national governments make recommendations on how they want industries and citizens to deal with Covid-19,’ Henning explained. ‘It is then up to the employers to decide how they will implement those recommendations.
‘This will vary from country to country, but since the players are still employed by their clubs, although they are not training or playing at present, they are bound by what those national governments decide and how their employers choose to approach those recommendations.’
Henning conceded that this is a unique situation but confirmed that all South African players remain bound by their contracts – at home and abroad.
‘When President Ramaphosa made recommendations on Sunday evening, the local rugby industry decided to appeal to unions and franchises to stop all team related activities until at least 14 April,’ he said. ‘While some players might have interpreted this as a holiday, MyPlayers informed its members that this is not the case – they are still employed by their unions, and this is still the regular season.
‘If, for example, a union wants to do individual testing or have conversations with players, they are completely within their rights to request the players’ presence on short notice. To fulfill their obligations to their employers, players have to be available at all times.
‘The situation overseas might be similar,’ Henning added. ‘While players will likely prefer to be with their families, the domestic seasons are still ongoing, even if it is under abnormal circumstances.
‘Our advice to players is to stay fit, healthy and safe, but for them to be aware that they are still expected to be available to their employers with the knowledge that their employers will adhere to the recommendations from the South African government and SA Rugby.’