SA's top rugby players look likely to lose at least two months to their New Zealand counterparts

South Africa Rugby Union CEO Jurie Roux.
South Africa Rugby Union CEO Jurie Roux.

South Africa’s top rugby players look likely to lose at least two months to their New Zealand counterparts as Covid-19 restrictions are lifted.

South African rugby officials are hopeful that an August return-to-play scenario will play itself out but may have to settle for September as the country tries to keep a lid on the pandemic.

New Zealand by contrast‚ haven’t just flattened the curve of the rate of infections‚ they have stopped it according to their government’s latest statistics.

It means NZ Rugby can set in motion more aggressive return-to-play protocols that will allow their professional players to resume combat in the middle of next month.

Australian rugby officials are keen to re-launch on July 4‚ with a five-team competition said to include the disbanded‚ but now reassembled Western Force.

Starting in mid-June the five New Zealand franchises will be playing each other home and away over a 10-week period. There will be no spectators in a made-for-television series.

The Highlanders will be hosting the Chiefs on June 13‚ with the Blues at home to the Hurricanes the next day. The matches are scheduled for afternoon kick-offs.

While professional sport in New Zealand is being treated in line with guidance on workplaces‚ from Thursday club sports in that country will be allowed to train and play subject to the combined number of players‚ coaches and officials not exceeding 10 people.

Club rugby in South Africa however‚ is unlikely to return this year because of Covid-19 restrictions.

New Zealand’s ability to get their players back onto the field by next month should stand them in good stead should the Rugby Championship get the green light later this year.

Their players will have a two-month head start on their South African counterparts which will likely translate to the Kiwis being fitter and better drilled if the tournament sees the light of day this year.

South African rugby officials have made representations to government but they are awaiting response from various ministerial committees about what return-to-play protocols can be put in place.