SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux and Springbok Women’s coach Stanley Raubenheimer agreed on Tuesday that the cancellation of the 2020 edition of the Rugby Africa Women’s Cup was the best decision for all involved due to the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic.
The Springbok Women were set to defend their Rugby Africa Women’s Cup title in a three match-series against Uganda, Madagascar and Kenya between May and July, which would have featured a historic first Test match in Madagascar, but the tournament was called off on Tuesday following a decision by Rugby Africa to cancel their 2020 season in the interests of player safety.
The key considerations in this significant decision included the current bans on travel, public gatherings and sporting events across Africa, the varying lifting of lockdown restrictions across the continent, potential quarantine requirements and the anticipated increase in travel costs when the travel bans are lifted.
Another contributing factor highlighted by the Rugby Africa Medical Committee was the fact that the variable evolution of COVID-19 in different parts of Africa made it difficult to predict when the pandemic would peak in Africa and when the end would be in sight.
“I feel for Stanley Raubenheimer and his team, especially with an eye on their preparations for the 2021 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand,” said Roux, who is also the Secretary General of Rugby Africa.
“But the safety of the players and team management members has to be the top priority in any decision made, and the cancellation of the tournament is in line with that.
“The players have continued to put in the hard yards in terms of their training during lockdown, and I commend them for that. I have no doubt that this news – albeit disappointing – will not stop them from doing their best and ensuring that they return to the field even more determined when the rugby season resumes.”
Raubenheimer was equally realistic in his reaction to the cancellation of the tournament: “I think it was the best decision in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. I would rather extend our preparation for the 2021 Rugby World Cup into next year and have peace of mind knowing that the players’ safety is the main priority.
“As a coaching team we were prepared for any eventuality, but it is good to have clarity on the season so we can map the way forward.”
Raubenheimer said the players would continue with their personal training programmes for now, while he remained hopeful that the European Tour scheduled to take place in November would go ahead.
“There is still a while to go before the November tour, so we will continue planning for that, although similarly to the Rugby Africa Women’s Cup we need to be prepared for any scenario that may play out,” said the coach.
“Obviously we would have liked to play as many matches as possible in the lead-up to the World Cup, but we have to be patient and let the COVID-19 virus take its course.
“Fortunately we managed to get the centralised training camps running across the country earlier in the year to allow the players to train together within in their respective regions, so when they can train in groups again I would like to see that function optimally. And if possible it would be nice to have a short alignment camp of three to four days with the entire squad later in the season.”
Issued by SA Rugby Communications
SA Rugby on Saturday welcomed an announcement that professional sports teams could begin the process of returning to training under Level 3 lockdown easing.
Mr Nathi Mthethwa, the Minister for Sports, Arts and Culture, made the announcement at a briefing on Saturday as he reported on the Department’s COVID-19 sector relief fund.
Mr 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.
“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 18 March.
Issued by SA Rugby Communications
Amidst all the hype and fanfare and labelled the best Super 14 tournament ever, seemingly the glory and honeymoon phase are over, with the aftermath leaving a bitter taste for all rugby loving supporters, well that’s according some news reports.
The Eastern Cape Super 14 Rugby Competition is regarded as the flagship tournament in the province, not only the monetary value in prizes, but the media hype, exposure to a semi-professional set-up and most importantly the social cohesion it brings between supporters and their clubs. It takes rugby from the best facilities in your suburban areas and open our eyes with the crumbling playing conditions in our rural areas. Most importantly it pits the best that Border Rugby can offer against the cream of Eastern Province rugby with the ultimate prize, to be crowned the best team in the province.
So, in a matter of two months, that feels like a distant dream, with wide spread media coverage of non-payment of prizes. Is it a matter of poor administration or genuine organizational glimpses that led to the delay? The final was played at BCM Stadium on the 14th March where Progress stunned local favourites Swallows 28-24. The reward, a hefty R60 000.00 pay day with the runners-up taking home R40 000.00, the losing semi-finalist earmarked to receive R25 000.00 each and the rest of the teams R15 000.00.
Its well documented that rugby bosses of both Swallows and Progress made scathing media statements eluding to the fact that they have not received any payments yet. One should also be reminded that not only the two clubs is affected but the entire 14 clubs that participated. Is this a genuine concern or just to get public empathy and sympathy? What is more concerning the breach in tournament rules which can lead to a suspension from future tournaments. For bringing the competition into disrepute is a clear violation of the competition rules as per rule 4.6 which states.
4.6 Media Interactions
(a) The only appointed individuals to speak on behalf of the competition is the Tournament Director or anyone mandated by him to do so.
(c) All clubs are encouraged to interact with the media only to promote their clubs and matches and may not in any way make statements or utterances that may denigrate the status of the Competition or officials. A breach of this rule may be seen as serious misconduct and may attract a sanction after appearing in front of the Judicial Sub-Committee.
There is contradicting statements coming from the two clubs in mention. Progress Rodney Josephs vehemently denies the report in the Daily Dispatch stating he clearly told the reporter that there was a communique from the tournament director that the money will be paid, but instead, the reporter created his own story. On the other hand, Swallows boss Zuko Matyeshana insist there was no communication. When asked about Rule 4.6 about media statements he said, “I was asked a question by a Daily Dispatch reporter whether we have received our prize-money, which I responded no, I couldn’t lie.
We did not approach the media and it is not during the duration of the tournament”.
Speaking to Phumelela Hlati, the Tournament Director, amidst all the accusations of non-payment, he said. All clubs were kept in the loop of the payments. A communique was sent out on the 17 th March to all club bosses on the S14 group stating that all payments will be made on or before the 27 th March 2020. The unfortunate thing is on the 23th March the
lockdown was announced which came into effect on the 26 th March. I am residing in Komani and the office is based in East London and there was travelling restrictions imposed. Because sport is non-essential, I had no permit to travel”
When asked why payments was made only in East London and could it not be done via a laptop or other mediums. Hlati stated that the prize money was ring fenced so that it doesn’t get lost with all the numerous transactions they make. He said “The two signatories, me and the president must be present to access the account. All payments of Super 14 were
either done on Tuesday or Wednesday and I had to go down to the office to process them. That is what has been happening from the beginning of the tournament. Payments were done at the office. I have limited ability to do transactions on the go”.
Late payments are not something new as there was also late payments in 2019. One could argue this year that no sport is being played at this point and time, so the urgency of payments is totally different.
Is there a conspiracy theory levelled against the organizers of the tournament? One must look back at the furore and uproar caused by Swallows supporters when the final was moved from NU1 Stadium in Mdantsane to BCM Stadium with the aftermath vocal altercations on social media, including a lengthy letter by Swallows Supporters Club. That too fuelling an emotional attachment of the community of Mdanstane, robbing them of staging a final at their door step. With Progress denying the statements in the media, questions would still be raised what they would gain in the whole debacle.
Fact is, there is no record stating any team was never paid what is due to them from previous competitions, albeit late or in time. Could this whole issue have been resolved by virtue of a phone call? So far only one club, Harlequins, formally asked for clarity just before lockdown via an email send to the organisers. The media spat have had a positive outcome, with Mkhululi Magada ensuring to organize a permit for Hlathi so that payments could be made on Friday.
For now, we are facing an interesting couple of days, weeks, months. Could we see the both finalists been absconded from the tournament for voicing their dissatisfaction in the media in clear violation of the competition’s rules, if found guilty. What measures will the steering committee take to remedy the situation for future tournaments. Was this even necessary as it not only paints a bleak prospect for the competition but could negatively impact the funding for future tournaments.
For R32-12 you can have the shirt off Siya’s back, the boots off Bongi’s feet or have a personal Rugby World Cup trophy tour – to your home! – as part of a major new charity initiative launched by SA Rugby on Tuesday.
The Springbok Rugby World Cup squad has put up cherished mementos in what may just be rugby’s biggest-ever raffle with all proceeds going to hunger alleviation charities, Food Forward SA and Gift of the Givers.
And R32-12? The campaign has been built around the score in the Rugby World Cup final in November, in which the Springboks defeated England, 32-12. To find out more on the campaign, click here, or you can head straight to Computicket to buy.
In all there’ll be 44 prizes (32 + 12), the campaign will run for 44 days, and if fans help the Springboks do the supporting and buy 100 000 tickets that’ll be R3,212m for food parcels and soup kitchens in this time of dire need.
Individuals and companies wishing to make a straightforward donation to the campaign can do so by direct payment into a dedicated FNB account – account number 62851652638; branch code 210554; swift code: FIRNZAJJ.
“When I made the call for the squad to make donations, they were all in within a matter of hours – boots and all!” said Rassie Erasmus, SA’s Director of Rugby.
“We talked a bit last year about what pressure was – not having a job, having a family member murdered – and now this pandemic has put millions out of work and left as many struggling every day to put food on the table.
“All year round we ask South Africans to support us in different ways. Our campaign last year was called #StrongerTogether and we believed it. We said, if we stood together, we were stronger as a nation. Well now’s the time to put those words into action and for the Springboks to do the supporting.”
SA Rugby has partnered with South Africa’s largest food redistribution agency, Food Forward SA, and disaster relief experts, Gift of the Givers, to ensure that every cent raised goes straight to the front line in the war against hunger.
Managing Director of Food Forward SA, Andy du Plessis said: “We are honoured to be selected as one of SA Rugby’s two beneficiary partners at a time when there’s an estimated 30 million South Africans requiring food in the midst of the Coronavirus crisis.
“While the scale of the challenge is daunting, since launching our R50m COVID19 Appeal to scale-up our distribution network, we are distributing 250,000 food parcels to over 1005 Beneficiary Organisations each month, which directly benefits more than 1,5m vulnerable people.
“Each food parcel, consisting of a variety of non-perishable groceries and fresh produce, provides a family with food essentials for three to four weeks (depending on household size). For every R50 received, FoodForward SA is able to provide the equivalent of two meals per day to a hungry person, for a month.”
Dr Imtiaz Sooliman, founder of Gift of the Givers, said: “Hunger has become a greater challenge than Covid-19. Our teams witness the queues, the anxiety of uncertainty, of not knowing whether you are a fortunate recipient of this dignity restoring food aid, a R350 package that stands between you and starvation.
“They witness the desperation, intuitively aware that hungry children, physically and mentally challenged family members and the elderly are waiting patiently and expectantly at home for some Manna to quell the hunger pangs but alas, there just simply isn't enough to go round as millions, including the middle class, are in dire straits.
“It is at such times when you need that lifeline, the announcement that SA Rugby, its management and team, are throwing their weight behind your initiative, your heart and soul lights up. Stronger Together, a second time, but this time the crisis is far greater than we ever envisaged as a nation,” added Dr Sooliman.
Each day for the next 44 days, SA Rugby will reveal a new prize on its website www.springboks.rugby and on its social media channels.
The launch day of the raffle saw Springbok captain Siya Kolisi put up one of his Rugby World Cup jerseys into the prize pool as a highly significant contribution to the campaign.
“I have seen up close the really bad state many people are in through the work of my foundation, so when coach Rassie explained what they were planning to do, I had no hesitation,” said Kolisi.
“I went hungry when I was a kid, but it was nothing as bad as some people are suffering right now. We might not raise millions, but you don’t know how much it means to each single person to have one proper meal a day – it could save their lives right now.
“I really hope people get behind us for the main reason of the campaign – to feed the hungry – as well as having the chance of winning something special from one of the squad.”
A new raffle prize will be revealed each day with the last offering to be revealed on 1 July. The draw will be made by PwC one week later. Click here to enter the raffle.
Issued by SA Rugby Communications
Five months after their magnificent Rugby World Cup triumph, Siya Kolisi and his Springbok teammates will talk viewers through the final as part of a Freedom Day rugby special on SuperSport.
The players and new Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber will lend fresh perspective to a win that continues to endure and inspire, with the programme starting at 15h30 on SuperSport 1.
Said Nienaber: “The Freedom Day RWC special on SuperSport will give the viewers an incredible opportunity to relive those memorable moments in Springbok history.
“It is something not to be missed. Those three RWC final wins will demonstrate so powerfully what we as South Africans can achieve when we are #StrongerTogether.”
The big block of World Cup programming will begin at 06h30 on Monday morning with a show celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Boks’ maiden World Cup win in 1995, produced in 2015.
This will be book-ended by the broadcast of Invictus, the Clint Eastwood film starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon that captured the remarkable Rugby World Cup winning tale of 1995.
BROADCAST DETAILS (all on SS1)
06h30: 20th anniversary documentary of 1995 RWC win
08h30: 2007 RWC win
10h30: Highlights of RWC 2019
12h00: RWC 2019 – SA group matches
15h30: 2019 RWC ReLived
19h00: Glory Game – The Joost van der Westhuizen story
Issued by SA Rugby Communications and SuperSport
Its been long touted that club rugby is moving in a semi-pro structure whereby players are paid a minimum wage or match fees. In some quarters this has been happening for a very long time, where top clubs around South Africa and the rest of the world lure the best players with high incentives as a dangling carrot.
Is this the way forward, or are we oppressing clubs with limited resources and are we moving into a direction where the elite clubs will continue to grow at the expense of the smaller clubs who are tantalizingly facing a demise. Gareth Davies of the Welsh Rugby Union wrote “But please, dear clubs, I implore you let us start again with the right structure. If no club offers payment, then there will be no market for player wage and no club will feel the need. If no club breaks the ranks and we all play for enjoyment, for our town or village of birth, for the club with whom we hold the strongest affinity, with our friends and neighbours, our extended families and our children, then no club will suffer the same threat of oblivion that is currently being felt in some quarters if a similar crisis were to strike again”
He further states “Don’t pay players. Play in the league you are in, strive to beat the opposition you face, dream of lifting the trophies available at your current standard and attract the players who are drawn to your club. Use the money you save on attracting, developing and engaging players for future or on ensuring your club remains the central hub of your community that it has always been. Be sustainable and help safeguard the future for us all”.
Whilst club structures are changing and clubs becoming semi-pro, while this is good and well in an ideal world, one needs to face burning facts. Most club players do not have a stable job that pays enough to provide for their families. The match fees act as a bridge to cover that gap. Players are also expected to be fit to perform at their optimum, yet we no gym fees is paid by clubs. The match fees can help in that regard as well. Most club players are unemployed, clubs expect them to practice every day, with lots of players staying far without transport. The issue of paying for rugby boots and other playing equipment like mouth guards, shoulder pads, etc. comes at a very high cost, match fees can bridge that gap. Even players that is working, most must take leave on a Friday and Saturday to attend matches as at times travelling is far. The Gold Cup is a perfect example, even normal league matches, travelling is an issue for someone who knocks off at 1pm on a Saturday and must still play at 3pm.
These are conversations that must take place in rugby circles. To weigh up the facts, whether its in the best interest of our communities or are we moving into a global direction where sport have become more commercial with the highest bidders investing in their clubs and is generally more successful. Success is not achieved over-night, but proper structures
and planning is also vital.
Does money buy success. Despatch Rugby club ruled Eastern Province Rugby at a point and time with huge financial backers. Crusaders is another example, they were one of the top clubs, playing at the lushy St Georges Park. At a point African Bombers had the same, with sponsors like Puma in the closet. Of late top Uitenhage clubs in Progress have Calbis and Gardens driven by MultiSure Corporation. Border Club East London Police had Just On Cosmetics. For years Old Selbornians had huge backers like your Nashua, Mike Pendock Motors. It’s no secret that Swallows have been holding the monopoly the last couple of years through their financial backers. We can name a lot of clubs like your Rustenburg Impala, False Bay Rugby Club, Durban Rovers and many many more. But when the money dries up, the players vanish and so does the success. It’s a well-known fact that players have no loyalty. It is conversation like these, that will go a long way in establishing in what direction our club rugby is heading.
The rugby industry has agreed in principle a wide-ranging plan to cut between R700 million to R1 billion from its budget over the next eight months to ensure the post-COVID-19 viability of the sport through an Industry Financial Impact Plan (IFIP).
The Plan has been agreed in a united strategy formulated in discussions including representatives from all stakeholders: SA Rugby; provincial unions; players and rugby industry employees. The plan incorporates the Industry Salary Plan (ISP) which will see a united and collective approach towards salary reductions.
The economies will be achieved by reduced expenditure caused by the cancellation of competitions, cuts in other operational budgets and in salary reductions.
“Many businesses find themselves in a fight for survival and rugby is no different,” said Jurie Roux, CEO of SA Rugby.
“We face an extremely threatening crisis and we had to take united and decisive action to address it head on.
“I’d like to commend the employees, players and the unions for the collaborative and realistic way they have approached this crisis. We are all in this together and we all quickly agreed that we have to equally contribute to the solution.”
Roux said that the salary reductions had been agreed in principle by the collective and were now being communicated to those effected before final approval through the various governance channels of SA Rugby, MyPlayers, Sports Employees Unite and the individual unions.
“Our income is tied to the playing of professional rugby and without matches we potentially don’t have any income,” said Roux. “We don’t know when we will be able to resume the season so have had to budget against a range of scenarios.
“This Industry Financial Impact Plan has been formulated against a worst-case scenario where we are not able to resume play for the rest of the year. It means we face a major belt-tightening exercise on a sport-wide and personal level; but without these measures we wouldn’t have much of a sport to return to.”
The Industry Financial Impact Plan is scheduled to run until the end of December in the first instance.
Rugby and COVID-19 timeline
Issued by SA Rugby Communications
SA Rugby has confirmed the cancellation of a number of events and continued contingency planning for others in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic it was announced on Tuesday, following extensive consultation between members of the local rugby industry.
“These are unprecedented times, not only for rugby in South Africa, but across all spheres of life all over the globe,” said Jurie Roux, CEO of SA Rugby.
“Unfortunately, we had to make some very tough calls in terms of our local competitions, but we have the buy-in and support from the local franchises and unions, SAREO, MyPlayers and our broadcaster, SuperSport, in this regard.
“The decision to cancel certain competitions and tournaments is in line with what has been happening across various sporting codes all over the world – we are not shielded from this in South Africa.
“In terms of other teams’ participation in certain competitions, and the hosting of other tournaments, we are currently on a return to train and play readiness plan, but this is dependent on Government advice and decisions as the pandemic evolves.”
The tournaments which are still part of the planning for 2020, are:
Furthermore, the participation of the SA Rugby Sevens Academy and Springbok Women’s Sevens teams will be evaluated as international borders reopen and new dates are received for the World Series Qualifiers for 2020.
The following tournaments and competitions have been cancelled for 2020:
All club and community rugby is still postponed until further notice and SA Rugby reiterated its plea to all clubs, teams, players and coaches to adhere to the lockdown rules.
Issued by SA Rugby Communications
All elements of the South African rugby ‘industry’ have come together in an unprecedented act of unity to prepare a long-term strategy to combat the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Employers, players, staff and SA Rugby have combined in business continuity planning aimed at cost saving in the face of expected shortfall in revenues.
The plan has been formulated in a joint working group (the COVID-19 Management Committee) including SA Rugby, the South African Rugby Employers’ Organisation (SAREO), MyPlayers (representing the players) and Sports Employees’ Unite (SEU – the rugby staffs’ trade union).
The Committee’s joint proposal has begun a round of presentations to union presidents and CEOs as well as through the MyPlayers and SEU channels.
“We have workshopped a number of scenarios based on potential return-to-play dates and identified the most likely financial scenario based on rugby resuming in the third quarter of 2020,” said Jurie Roux, the CEO of SA Rugby.
“The industry came together virtually on day one of this crisis to frame a united response.
“This is not an SA Rugby problem or a unions’ problem, it is everyone’s problem and we are very clear that we have to stand together if we are to overcome it.
“The progression and response to the virus unfolds on a daily basis so we do not have a confirmed domestic or international calendar for the rest of 2020, but we have made plans for every eventuality.
“Returning to play as soon as possible is critical for the industry and until we know what that date is – and if it is sustainable in the face of the crisis – we cannot accurately understand the impacts.
“However, we have taken a realistic approach to the potential damage and have formulated a plan that will mitigate the immediate damage and provide the basis for an on-going response.”
Once approved the plan would be made public, said Roux.
“These are dark times but we are united in our approach and determined that together we will get through this.”
The grouping urged the rugby community to strictly observe the lockdown directives of President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Timeline: COVID-19 and South African Rugby
Issued by SA Rugby Communications
In a ground-breaking initiative piloted by SA Rugby’s Rugby Department, the Springbok and Blitzbok coaches have started to share their expertise online and in real time with a large number of coaches across the country, during the COVID-19 lockdown period.
The pilot online coaching webinar was launched on Wednesday, when Springbok assistant coach Deon Davids hosted an interactive presentation to 80 schools coaches.
On Friday, the second webinar in the series was hosted by Ashley Evert, the Blitzboks’ Team Manager and a former SA Under-20 and Vodacom Blue Bulls forwards coach, who conducted a lineout throwing session.
The coaches dialled into the 65-minute online sessions from within the comforts of their homes from all over South Africa. The presentations lasted approximately 45 minutes and were followed by 20-minute interactive Q&A sessions.
Over the course of the next three weeks, Rassie Erasmus (Director of Rugby), Jacques Nienaber (Springbok coach), Neil Powell (Blitzbok coach) and both national teams’ assistant coaches will take turns to present their area of expertise with the group of coaches.
Erasmus praised the initiative as a breakthrough in their effort to communicate simultaneously, and on a large scale, with local coaches across South Africa.
“Hilton Adonis (Manager: Training and Education) and Louis Koen (Manager: High Performance Programmes), as well as their other colleagues who worked hard behind the scenes, must be commended for getting this initiative off the ground,” said Erasmus.
“The pilot webinar was a great success and created a lot of excitement among the coaches. This platform will enable us to continue with the training and education of our coaches even though we are in a period of self-isolation at the moment.”
According to Adonis, online coaching was earmarked as a key priority for 2020, and that their plans to rolling out the web-based seminars were now accelerated by the national lockdown.
“We realized last year that formal learning, complimented with online presentations, is really the way of the future and we therefore planned to roll out a series of online seminars throughout the year,” said Adonis.
“The national period of isolation has opened an opportunity for us to launch a series of pilot coaching seminars, with Deon Davids presenting the first one on Wednesday.”
Adonis said the target group of this online gathering was schools coaches, specifically those responsible for the current intake of Under-16 and Under-18 players in SA Rugby’s Elite Player Development programme (EPD).
“These coaches are responsible for the coaching of around 60 U16 and 75 U18 players who are currently enrolled in our EPD programmes, so we thought it would be a starting point,” he said.
“The feedback we received from the coaches was very positive. They absolutely loved the idea to get involved and to make use of the opportunity to learn from South Africa’s best coaching personnel.
“They sent plenty of messages through WhatsApp and email to express their gratitude and their excitement. Many said they were so motivated after the session and they are now looking forward to the next instalments.”
Issued by SA Rugby Communications