Hope for rugby’s return to training

Sports minister Nathi Mthethwa has confirmed that professional athletes who participate in contact and non-contact sport can start training from 1 June.

At a briefing on Saturday, information was provided on return-to-play protocols for all sports as South Africa prepares to move to level 3 of lockdown on Monday.

While there are many questions remaining and areas that still need clarity, Mthethwa confirmed all sporting codes are expected back in training from the start of June.

However, it was reiterated that contact sport is only at training level, with all sporting events organised in a stadium or venue prohibited.

‘The announcement of amended regulations under level 3 is indeed going to see the gradual introduction of various sectoral activities, however under strict adherence to safety measures, as outlined under the Disaster Management regulations,’ the minister commented.

While various sporting activities will be gradually introduced from June, this will take place under strict conditions. Professional sporting bodies and clubs must also test all athletes and staff before any activities can resume.

‘All sport bodies must within 14 days after the publication of these directions, inform the Minister in writing as to the date of resumption and further provide an operational guideline including a guarantee in the form of affidavits related to the testing of all officials,’ Mthethwa stated.

Although the local rugby industry will now hope to establish the go-ahead for players to returning to training, it appears that any matches or competition would only be possible at level one of lockdown.

In mid-May, SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux had already said a big focus had shifted towards presenting the roadmap for a return to action.

‘From the moment we went into lockdown we have been preparing and workshopping internal guidelines and protocols for return to play and return to work,’ said Roux.

‘Those are complete and are ready to be actioned as soon as we get government’s go-ahead. We have presented our case to the Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture and believe we have a strong case.’

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