South African rugby teams resume training under strict COVID-19 regulations

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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)
FILE PHOTO: The Emirates Lions and the DHL Stormers pictured above were two of the eight teams allowed by SA Rugby to resume non-contact training. (Photo by Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Some of South Africa’s rugby teams resumed non-contact training on Monday after an announcement on Friday from SA Rugby allowing them to do so after four months of suspension due to COVID-19 pandemic.

SA Rugby on Friday said that only eight teams will resume training with the aim of competing in domestic competitions accommodated into the remainder of the year. All other competitions, including club rugby, were cancelled.

The teams are: Vodacom Bulls, Emirates Lions, Cell C Sharks, DHL Stormers, Isuzu Southern Kings, Toyota Cheetahs, Tafel Lager Griquas and Phakisa Pumas.

The Lions and the Sharks were two of the teams which returned to the pitch amid tight restrictions in a bid to gain match fitness.

According to SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux, all players and management teams were screened before Monday’s return and training venues had been prepared to conform to the new protocols.

Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen welcomed the return to training as a positive step towards resuming normal competition though he admitted that the circumstances will be different to what they are accustomed to.

“We are going to be rigorous in sticking to and enforcing our ‘fives’ as we start by working on conditioning. As such, we’ve set up five different gym stations so that every group will have their own station, with the necessary sanitation and cleaning equipment and products,” van Rooyen said.

“The same five players will be together all the time and will train in the same space every day – they won’t be able to swap or move to other training stations.”

Van Rooyen added that the same conditions will be enforced when players move outdoors to the training field, while online team meetings will remain a feature for the foreseeable future.

SA Rugby is also working with stakeholders on the possibility of a return to play for the Springboks at some stage in 2020. There are still plans to host The Rugby Championship, which the Springboks won last year, later in 2020.

South Africa is the worst-affected country by COVID-19 pandemic in Africa and among the worst in the world. As of July 19, the country has reported more than 364,000 cases and more than 5,000 deaths from the deadly virus.

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