The Latest: No return yet for world champion Springboks
The Latest on the effects of the coronavirus outbreak on sports around the world:
The South African government maintained a ban on all contact sports competitions on Saturday because of the coronavirus, meaning the country’s professional rugby teams and its world champion Springboks will remain out of action.
The announcement by sports minister Nathi Mthethwa came as South Africa prepares to further ease lockdown on Monday and open up most of its economy as part of a phased relaxation of restrictions.
Professional non-contact sports competitions will be allowed in some regions and Mthethwa gave permission for teams, including those in rugby, to resume training. But only if protocols are in place to minimize the chances of transmission of COVID-19. All teams have 14 days to submit detailed plans on their protocols for approval before they can train, the minister said. Conditions include the mandatory screening of athletes.
South Africa Rugby CEO Jurie Roux welcomed the move as “an opportunity for our players to enhance their lockdown training regimes by increasing their fitness work for an eventual return to play.” He added he would seek clarification over whether full-contact training would be allowed.
Premier League clubs with only 15 fit players are still likely to have to play matches if the season resumes as planned next month during the coronavirus pandemic.
West Ham vice chair Karren Brady has disclosed new details of Thursday’s conference call of clubs when they agreed to restart the season on June 17, pending government approval.
The season was suspended in March after positive COVID-19 cases at Arsenal and Chelsea forced the squads into self-isolation.
Brady said the latest virtual meeting of club executives featured a long discussion about “what constitutes having a team fit enough to compete in the games left to play.”
Most teams, including West Ham, have nine games remaining.
“There are obvious and genuine concerns about what happens to your match results if your club has a number of players testing positive for coronavirus, or is in self-isolation, and as a result you simply cannot field your usual or strongest starting XI,” Brady wrote in a column in Saturday’s editions of “The Sun” newspaper.
“Well, as long as you have 15 fit players (including one goalkeeper) made up from either your 25-man squad list or from your under-21s you will be deemed to have a team fit enough to fulfill the fixture.”
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