CAPE TOWN – South Africa has finally taken a big step towards moving closer to rugby action, with teams set to resume contact training this week.
On Friday, SA Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux said in a statement that contact training would start early this week following the completion of the necessary health checks, including a final Covid-19 test.
This comes after South African rugby’s long wait for the go-ahead from the sports ministry, which finally came after five weeks of non-contact training in small groups.
The Stormers, Cheetahs, Sharks, Bulls, Lions, Griquas and Pumas are the seven teams that will get down to business this week in preparation for a domestic competition.
Last week it was announced that the Southern Kings have been “voluntarily withdrawn” by the franchise’s board as taking part in competition this year wouldn’t have made sense financially.
This came after SA Rugby assumed management control of the franchise in June this year, having taken back a 74% shareholding in the organisation in partnership with the EPRU – a move that was made following the failure of the former majority shareholder (the Greatest Rugby Company in the Whole Wide World) to meet its financial commitments relating to the acquisition of the shareholding.
While it would have been great to see the Kings competing against local competition – after all, when last did we see that? – it will no doubt be a proper treat seeing how the various teams come out after months of rugby absence.
Contact training will also give a clearer indication of where those who were on the long-term injury list after the last round of Super Rugby stand now in terms of recovery and readiness.
And who can say they aren’t looking forward to seeing if that extra bit of focus on skills during all those non-contact sessions will pay off?
A kickoff date, however, hasn’t been confirmed just yet, and in last week’s statement, Roux added: “With the guidance of Government and working very hard with our various stakeholders, we’ve knuckled down and plotted our return to competitive action, which is getting closer every day.
“But we’re also very mindful of the pitfalls associated with this and we know things can change overnight.
“Once we’ve finalised all the relevant plans and we’ve aligned with our broadcast partner, sponsors, franchises and other stakeholders, we’ll confirm the playing schedule.”
Again, we may not know which date to circle on our calendars just yet, but there can be no doubt that not a single player will be lacking motivation when contact training kicks off.
So just imagine what that first match – whenever it may be – will bring …