Rugby is one step closer to returning in South Africa following an announcement by the South African Government. Nathi Mthethwa, the Minister for Sports, Arts and Culture, revealed the conditions for rugby’s return to play, which does not yet allow for international competition, on Thursday.

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Teams will be permitted to return to contact training, and matches will go ahead without supporters present. Outside of players and staff, the only people allowed inside stadiums will be people working as part of essential services.

SA Rugby welcomed the announcement and outlined that they are hoping to stage matches in September.

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“Since the start of this pandemic, we have been working hard at ensuring we get back on the field and we’ve kept the Government informed on our plans throughout the process,” said SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux.

“We are very grateful for the opportunity to move to the next phase of our return-to-play plans and will provide the Department with all the necessary information required, such as venues for matches, to ensure a smooth transition to competitive rugby.

“Having said that, our eight franchise teams that returned to the training field recently still need a few more weeks of preparation before they will be ready for matches, and from SA Rugby’s side we will assist them with whatever is necessary.

“At this stage, we hope to have our first matches by early to mid-September and our plans on the structure of the planned competition will be announced in due course, as we have various options to consider.”

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The Vodacom Bulls, Emirates Lions, Cell C Sharks, DHL Stormers, Toyota Cheetahs, Southern Kings, Tafel Lager Griquas and Phakisa Pumas all resumed non-contact training a few weeks ago.

The return to international competition is not permitted under the new regulations, but Roux said he understood the Government’s need to phase any return to normality.

“We know the World Rugby window for the Castle Lager Rugby Championship is only in November and December, so we’re hopeful that in due course the government will be in a position to further relax the restrictions,” said Roux.

“For now, it’s the most important to ensure we get the action underway as we have many stakeholders, such as our broadcast partner, competition and team sponsors and our supporters, who are keen to see some rugby again.”

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