Club rugby in the Western Province rejoiced at the news that they would be allowed to commence a phased-in process of returning to the pitch, with a mid-2021 season start a possibility.
The course of the coronavirus has forced even the most optimistic of us to accept that life as we knew it cannot be taken for granted. Yet life does carry on and we have adapted our behaviour to limit the risk to ourselves and our fellow citizens. Social-distancing is a way of life; face masks an essential and somewhat fashion item, even in banks where it was taboo until recently; and wrinkled fingers from hand sanitising at every corner, are now a fact of life.
Social interaction is a cornerstone of society and participation in sport and sporting events feed the soul of so many. Sports administration bodies are all too aware of this and under the guidance of professionals and experts in their fields, are doing their best to reintroduce their codes to full participation.
The SA Rugby Football Union authorised a phased-in return to training for club rugby with effect from today, Thursday February 18, which after being endorsed by the WPRFU, has been met with excitement across the city.
Clubs will be allowed to return to non-contact training with certain provisos. Before any player places a boot on the pitch, respective clubs are expected to ensure certain safeguards are respected. Clubs have to be in possession of a certificate of operation from the union, conditions of which have been published in the relevant Government Gazette.
Non-contact training such as touch rugby, the bane of the slower player, is allowed, with contact sessions, drills and matches forbidden. A more specific guideline has been issued which is encouraging for players kicking their heels and itching to return to the game they so love.
Phase one, starting this week, is focused on fitness, strength and conditioning. The duration is four weeks and prepares players for the rigours of the game, where phase two is a gradual introduction to contact training.
Particularly excited are the players, existing and newcomers, at False Bay RFC. The Bay last played a match exactly a year ago, in February 2020, but have been active since then through a combination of permissible training routines within the guidelines by head coach Johnno van der Walt.
During lockdown alert levels 4 and 5, the innovative taskmaster had his charges completing bespoke routines within the confines of the home and gardens. Van der Walt doubles as the club’s director of rugby which meant that all players within the club were welcome to participate. This invitation extended to the CrossFit sessions which commenced once access was granted through lockdown level changes.
Players have been hard at work preparing for the season, shaking the cobwebs of inactivity and mostly keeping the pounds off the waists, a blight of lockdown. “We have planned for next week Thursday”, said Van der Walt. “We have the relevant go-ahead of the City council and are compliant with SARU regulations and protocols”.
It may be a soft start to the season in terms of contact and where the club or any club for that matter, were in February last year, but it is progress. Before the players wipe their eyes out, the four-week introduction would have passed and any club not utilising this ticket immediately, will find themselves playing catch-up, especially in terms of fitness for SLA2021, should it start as planned.
Yes, much water needs to pass under that bridge but as alluded to before, optimism and positivity is the order of the day. “We have been at CrossFit for the past nine months and the guys have been training well”, said Van der Walt. “Everyone is super-keen and the spirits are high”.
All things being equal, clubs around the province may well be facing each other off at various venues across the region. Yes, that does present other challenges and will require careful operations planning, but let’s remain positive.
Interested players are welcome to email Johnno van der Walt at firstname.lastname@example.org
Jon Harris is a member of False Bay RFC.