SA rugby players not yet ’contact-ready’ ahead of season restart

DURBAN – South Africa’s rugby players are yet to get the green light to begin contact training sessions, which means time is running out for the Currie Cup to kick off early next month as hoped.

Last Thursday, SA Rugby received a go-ahead from the government for rugby to resume under certain conditions, but since then there has been no added clarity as to exactly what format the competition will take, nor when and where; and permission for the players to take contact remains outstanding.

“Everything that has been in the press about rugby restarting is exactly what we know,” frustrated Sharks coach Sean Everitt said yesterday.

“We have heard that it will be early September, and where it will take place nobody knows, but we understand it will be in a ‘bio-bubble’.”

There has also been speculation of a revival of the initial plan for a double-round competition featuring the Super Rugby teams, to be followed by a single-round Currie Cup, because of the broadcast revenue at stake from Sanzaar’s partners, with rugby continuing well into December.

The other option is for no Super Rugby and instead an eight-team, double-round Currie Cup, also to finish not long before Christmas.

“We are optimistic that everything will fall in to place but the concern is that we are still not allowed to take contact,” Everitt said.

“We are four weeks away from game time and this period, in my opinion, is the minimum you need to harden up through contact to play matches.”

In other words, the country’s rugby players need the okay to start contact training this week if they are to be ready to play in the first week of September.

“At this stage, we are only allowed to train in pods of five players and we are limited to skills, gym, and conditioning,” Everitt said.

“The worry is that you have to be contact ready to prevent injury, and the prospect of carrying injuries is a huge concern going forward because we could be starting up again in January in a new competition.

“Having said that, our guys are in really good shape, they have trained phenomenally over the last few weeks.

“They are so hungry to play – if the public feels frustrated at not seeing rugby, it is even worse for these guys,” Everitt said.

“If we get the go-ahead to take contact any day now, and the guys can get scrumming and tackling and so on, I reckon they can be ready in four weeks.

“That is ideal. At a push, three weeks.”

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