SA Rugby exploring option of domestic competition amid COVID-19 crisis

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JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - FEBRUARY 15: Jean-Luc du Plessis of the Stormers with possession during the Super Rugby match between Emirates Lions and DHL Stormers at Emirates Airline Park on February 15, 2020 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images/Getty Images)
Andries Coetzee of the Lions scores a try during the Super Rugby match between Emirates Lions and DHL Stormers at Emirates Airline Park on February 15, 2020 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

The South African Rugby Union (SA Rugby) is exploring plans to host a domestic competition as an alternative to the international rugby union club competition Super Rugby, should it be cancelled this year.

In March, SANZAAR, the body which runs the flagship international rugby tournaments of the Southern Hemisphere, Super Rugby and The Rugby Championship, suspended Vodacom Super Rugby for the foreseeable future due to the coronavirus.

The competition is expected to feature the four South African Super Rugby franchises (Cell C Sharks, DHL Stormers, Emirates Lions and Vodacom Bulls) and the two South African franchises that play in the Guinness PRO14 league (Isuzu Southern Kings and Toyota Cheetahs).

SA Rugby President Mark Alexander told local media outlet Sport24 that discussions for the tournament were underway with the government.

“Professional sport is being hard hit by this and it could cost us hundreds of millions of Rands. We want to come up with a proposal that we present to government that has all the necessary controls in place,” Alexander said.

According to Alexander, SA Rugby would hold the tournament behind closed doors and facilitate the screening of all players and staff involved.

Last month, SA Rugby announced the suspension of all rugby until the end of April and added that discussions were underway to reschedule competitions to excluded international travel and be played behind closed doors.

SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux said that the sport’s income was tied to the playing of professional rugby and without matches they potentially did not have any income.

South Africa’s rugby industry has agreed in principle to a wide-ranging plan to slash between R700 million to R1 billion from its budget over the next eight months to ensure the post-COVID-19 viability of the sport through an Industry Financial Impact Plan (IFIP). Players are set to contribute 12.5 percent to the plan.

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