EP’s Elephants join Southern Kings in limbo

BEING SENSIBLE: SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux says all national team activities have been suspended in a bid to out-manoeuvre the virus
BEING SENSIBLE: SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux says all national team activities have been suspended in a bid to out-manoeuvre the virus

EP’s Elephants joined the Isuzu Southern Kings in limbo when rugby bosses postponed the provincial SuperSport Rugby Challenge until further notice because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Elephants had been scheduled to start their campaign with an away match against the SWD Eagles on April 26.

In the second round, the Elephants were set to return to Port Elizabeth for a match against the Boland Cavaliers, which would have been at the Wolfson Stadium on May 3.

At club level, the Gold Cup competition is being reassessed with a view to postponement.

The Kings had been scheduled to face Scottish side Edinburgh at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Saturday, but that was one of the first games to feel COVID-19’s bite.

SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux said background planning was under way to resume the Vodacom Super Rugby and Guinness PRO14 competitions before season’s end.

SA Rugby on Monday suspended all national team training camps and business travel as part of a raft of measures in response to the global pandemic.

Scheduled Springbok alignment camps, Springbok Men’s and Women’s training camps and the SA Rugby Under-20 preparations have all been suspended until April 14.

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

Members of the Springbok Sevens team — which recently competed in events in Los Angeles and Vancouver — are being tested for the virus, having come into contact with the Australian men’s Sevens team, two of whom have tested positive for the virus.

Several members of the U20 squad — who had travelled individually from clubs in Europe — will also be tested.

“The president has called on SA society to join together in fighting this pandemic, and we will do everything we can to assist that campaign and protect the health of the rugby community,” Roux said.

“Rugby is a sport with a high degree of physical contact and by its very nature is the opposite of the recommended ‘social distancing’.

“We have therefore suspended all national team activities and instructed managements to put athletes on individual training regimes — away from high-risk areas such as gymnasiums — to lower the risk of infection.

“The intention is that they will resume group preparation from April 14 to allow two weeks’ of reintegration before taking on competitive action.'

Roux said similar advice was to be given to SA Rugby’s 14 provincial member unions — as well as the Schools Rugby Association and other associate members — with a view to all competitive rugby action ceasing across the country until April 25 at the earliest.

Training and education programmes for coaches, referees and rugby safety (BokSmart) participants would be postponed or delivered by videoconferencing.

“This is an unprecedented crisis but we have to continue to work for when the peak has passed us, as, in the words of President Ramaphosa, we will get through this,” Roux said.