Kings prepare for bio bubble battle
Planned double round of Currie Cup fixtures in September will test PE outfits mettle
When the call comes, the Southern Kings will be ready to enter a tough Currie Cup bio bubble battle, Kings interim head coach Robbi Kempson has promised.
SA Rugby are planning to play a double round of Currie Cup fixtures, kicking off in September, that will test the Kings’ mettle.
SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux has welcomed news from the government that rugby has been given the green light to return to the playing field, under certain conditions.
“I think the final decision [about a restart] will only be made at the end of August anyway, as far as the SA Rugby Council is concerned,” Kempson said.
“I would think the second week in September is likely.”
Asked if any of his players had tested positive for Covid-19, Kempson said: “No, thankfully we have a clean slate at the moment.
“There have been one of two with family members who had Covid so we have kept them away [from training].
“Everyone has been tested that is in our environment so we have been pretty fortunate in that regard.
Work is going on behind the scenes to get contract extensions for JC Astle, Schalk Ferreira and Stefan Ungerer to join the Kings squad before rugby resumes.
The trio were not named in the Kings’ original 38-man squad.
The news that rugby is set for a restart was gazetted by sports minister Nathi Mthethwa and allows for a return to competitive action, subject to compliance with measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
The directions stipulate that contact training and matches can be played in empty stadiums in a “bio safe environment”, with only limited people allowed to attend games as part of essential services.
“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 of our plans throughout the process,” Roux said.
“We are 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.”
The Vodacom Bulls, Emirates Lions, Cell C Sharks, DHL Stormers, Toyota Cheetahs, Southern Kings, Tafel Lager Griquas and Phakisa Pumas all started with 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.
“For now, the most important thing is to ensure we get the action under way as we have many stakeholders, such as our broadcast partner, competition and team sponsors and our supporters, who are keen to see rugby again,” Roux said.