Eight South African rugby teams, including all four Super Rugby franchises as well as the two Pro rugby sides, will return to non-contact training on Monday.
The Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers; Kings and Cheetahs, and the Pumas and Griquas will resume training activities with a view to playing in a domestic competition starting at the end of August.
Independent Media has learned that a double round Currie Cup competition, involving these teams, will start in about six weeks’ time and run into early December. It is understood SA Rugby are still considering options with regards to where the eight teams will be hosted inside a “bio bubble”.
“This is an important step back to playing, and we have taken it carefully to ensure full compliance and having thoroughly interrogated the regulations with government,” said Jurie Roux, SA Rugby CEO.
“Contact training will not be permitted for the moment, but players will be allowed back onto the field with a rugby ball and back into the gym, while observing strict protocols. This comes as a great relief to the sport.”
The other Currie Cup unions in South Africa – Border, Boland, Valke, South Western Districts, Griffons and Leopards – would remain in lockdown.
“The risk associated with a mass return to train and play has been highlighted by government and the timelines and practicalities are such that it is unrealistic that there will be a general return to play this year,” said Roux.
“Therefore the members of the CovCom (the standing committee of member unions and experts which has been managing rugby’s response to the pandemic) opted to formally confirm that the only rugby to take place under their jurisdiction this year would feature the eight senior teams.”
It is expected that with a Rugby Championship involving the Springboks being staged in a bio bubble in New Zealand in October that several high profile players, including World Cup winning Boks, would miss the second round of the Currie Cup.
It would mean that teams with the greatest depth and strong U-21 squads could feature prominently in the domestic competition.