Blow for SA’s young rugby players

SA Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux.
SA Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux.
Image: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

While elite rugby tournaments at professional level have been allowed to continue with strict protocols in place, Covid-19 has wreaked havoc on the careers of SA’s club and school players.

The pandemic’s impact was brought into focus when SA Rugby bosses cancelled their 2021 youth weeks for the second year in succession.

For aspiring professional players, this means they will miss out on some of the biggest moments in their careers.

Playing at a national youth week is the pinnacle of a young player’s career and allows them to showcase their talents to a wider audience.

These events also attract talent scouts from major unions, who offer the cream of the crop lucrative contracts to kick-start their careers.

Hopefully the best players will still get the recognition they deserve, but others may slip through the net because of a lack of exposure.

A disappointed SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux said  none of the national schools tournaments — for U13, U16, U18, Academy Week and LSEN teams for boys, as well as the U16 and U18 national weeks for girls — would take place in 2021. 

He said the decision was very unfortunate because everyone wanted to see SA’s  best age group players in action.

Roux said the decision had been taken after careful consideration during the past few months, during which SA Rugby delivered a number of international tournaments and competitions. 

He pointed to the need to keep the current Covid-19 strategies in place and that SA Rugby were not near ready to relaxing Covid-19 testing strategies to mitigate the spread of the virus within competitions and tournaments.

Matches between U18 sides that had already been selected could continue, but only if staged under the auspices of the respective host provincial union.

That would include enforcing the same return-to-play protocols being adopted at Currie Cup, Premier and First Division, and U20 Championship level.

After holding trials, EP named their youth teams for the various tournaments despite the national bodies’ decision to can them.

It must have been a bittersweet moment for all the players involved.

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