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Sports Minister Mthethwa: Football and rugby can resume fitness training

Sports Minister Nathi Mthethwa.
Sports Minister Nathi Mthethwa.
Image: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

Minister of Sports‚ Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa has clarified that professional contact sports such as football and rugby can resume fitness training only‚ exercising strict regulations laid out in the new level three national lockdown regulations.

The regulations of South Africa’s move from level four to three of the phased exit from the lockdown on Monday have cleared the return for non-contact sports events such as tennis‚ athletics‚ and cricket to continue behind closed doors.

Mthethwa announced the new regulations pertaining to sport in a press conference on Saturday morning and the conditions under which certain sports can resume.

He said all sports – including the major contact sports of football and rugby and – can return to fitness training under strict conditions.

Contact sports remain prohibited from staging matches‚ even behind closed doors‚ but SA Rugby and the Premier Soccer League (PSL) will be delighted at the news they can at least resume non-contact fitness training under stringent conditions.

“All sporting codes would be expected back at training‚” Mthethwa said.

“You would realise that our athletes have not been in training‚ and you would not want them out of shape forever. So the process of training would ensue for both contact and non-contact sports.

“From the point of view of non-contact sports it’s both training and resumption of play. But from contact sport it’s only at the training level.”

The resumption of non-contact fitness training appears to pave the way for football and rugby to return to matches behind closed doors from level two of the lockdown.

Any preseason begins with fitness training. No football or rugby off-season has been as long as the lockdown‚ and none confined players to their homes.

So even non-contact fitness training for as long as a month can be necessary‚ given the state of players emerging from a lockdown‚ and would have players back in condition to resume matches. A further week or two weeks’ contact tactical training should be enough to have players match ready.

SA sport is also fortunate to have the examples set overseas of a safe return to play to follow. Sports teams abroad began phased-in measures such as a week of individual training‚ followed by a week of groups of six‚ then squad fitness training enforcing distancing‚ and then contact training.

The government has yet to clarify if contact sports can play closed-doors matches in level two.