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SA Rugby looking at local playing options as sports calendar grinds to halt

These plans could see South African franchises and other provincial teams return to a new, locally-based derby competition in view of the current suspension of Super Rugby and the PRO 14.

The Sharks secured a 32-27 victory in their coastal Currie Cup clash against the Western Province in Durban on 20 July 2019. Picture: @TheSharksZA/Twitter.

CAPE TOWN - SA Rugby on Wednesday announced plans to restructure local rugby competitions in the wake of the recent measures introduced to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

These plans could see South African franchises and other provincial teams return to a new, locally-based derby competition in view of the current suspension of Super Rugby and the PRO 14.

SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux has confirmed the national rugby body is in ongoing discussions with stakeholders about a number of competition models that could be implemented.

“SA Rugby is currently evaluating all our competition structures, with a view to restructuring it in the interim so that we are able to afford the game time to all our franchise and provincial teams,” said Roux.

“Obviously, nothing can happen in the next few weeks until the ‘period of social distancing’, as instructed by President Cyril Ramaphosa, has lapsed."

“We are considering local derby matches between our South African teams. We must still drill into the specifics, but we are confident we will be able to put a feasible plan on the table that will be suitable for everyone. These are extraordinary times which call for extraordinary measures and it also offers us an opportunity to be innovative."

“We are working closely with our broadcast partner, SuperSport, and other important stakeholders and will announce plans once we are in a position to do so,” Roux added.

NATIONAL TEAMS

After the suspension of all national team training and alignment camps and business travel as part of a raft of measures in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus said plans are already in place to continue with preparations.

Scheduled Springbok alignment camps, Springbok Women’s training camps, as well as the Junior Springboks’ and Blitzboks’ preparations have all been suspended until 14 April.

“Speaking purely from a rugby point of view, we realise no one could prepare for the COVID-19 pandemic and as a result, all of us in the game across the globe are in the same boat,” said Erasmus.

“As SA Rugby has already said we need to ensure the wellness of players, supporters and staff as well as playing rugby’s part in helping counter the pandemic. Our planning for the season will carry on regardless – whether it’s the Springboks, Junior Springboks, Blitzboks or our national women’s teams – as we still have a lot to prepare for."

“While there are challenges when it comes to face-to-face interaction with players and team activities, modern communication methods make it possible for coaches, players and management teams to keep in constant contact with one another.

“Nothing beats sitting around a table or running around on the training field, but this is not a unique situation to us here in South Africa and without going into too much detail, we can confirm that the work has not stopped and we are hard at work preparing for our forthcoming Tests, other matches or tournaments.”

The Springboks’ Incoming Series Tests in July (against Scotland and Georgia), Youth Week tournaments and Currie Cup remain as scheduled but will be reviewed in April.

FULLY BEHIND GOVERNMENT

SA Rugby president Mark Alexander has vowed to throw its full weight behind the government’s policies and objectives in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Minister for Sports, Arts & Culture Nathi Mthethwa, briefed national sports federations on the government’s plans on Tuesday and called on sports bodies to support the campaign.

“We wholeheartedly and without hesitation are completely aligned to the government’s aggressive approach to attempting to curb this pandemic,” said Mr Alexander.

“All rugby has been suspended until the end of April and we have changed our business practices to support the need for ‘social distancing’. I call on the entire rugby fraternity to play their part in support of the government in curbing this pandemic. The Springboks showed last year that we as a nation are stronger when we are together and now is the time for all of us to act."

“We will continue to support government initiatives and directives and follow the advice of the Department of Health and other advisory bodies to beat back the disease. All face-to-face committee meetings have either been postponed or turned into online meetings and we continue to review forthcoming competitions.

“These are unprecedented times and require unprecedented responses as well as the support, understanding and wholehearted engagement of all engaged in sport.”