SA Rugby have welcomed an announcement in South Africa on Saturday that professional sports teams could begin the process of returning to training under level three lockdown easing. Nathi Mthethwa, the Minister for Sports, Arts and Culture, made the announcement at a briefing as he reported on his department’s Covid-19 sector relief fund.

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Mthethwa said sports teams had 14 days to submit proposals to the department on how they would ensure the safety of the players and officials. He also announced that non-contact sports could return to play if they observed all the necessary regulations.

This is the news sport has been waiting to hear as it allows us to begin to ramp up preparations for an eventual return-to-play,” said Jurie Roux, SA Rugby CEO. “We submitted a comprehensive, staged return-to-play protocols document to the department five weeks ago and we are ready to begin medical screening of players immediately.

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“We will seek further clarity from the department on the application of the guidelines as they apply to contact training. But this is an opportunity for our players to enhance their lockdown training regimes by increasing their fitness work for an eventual return to play.”

SA Rugby announced the suspension of all rugby on March 18 and have since been implementing budgetary cuts to help them balance their books as best as possible. In the industry salary plan (ISP) to deal with the repercussions of Covid-19, a 21-day window was created which allowed for players and staff to cancel their current contracts with immediate effect prior to a May 14 deadline.

Officials are looking to make overall savings of R1.2billion (£53.4m) by the end of 2020. “The economies will be achieved by reduced expenditure following the cancellation of competitions (49.7 per cent of savings), cuts in other operational budgets (37.3 per cent) and in salary reductions (13 per cent),” read a statement earlier this month.

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