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Rugby return could be a long way off

CALISTUS KOLANTSHO
Not now: Rugby return could still be a long way off
Local rugby could be set for a longer (COVID-19) coronavirus-induced spell without action, officials have said.

Even as the government began to ease lockdown restrictions this week, rugby return could still be a long way off.

Botswana Rugby Union (BRU) board additional member, Feddy Mutenheri said due to the physical nature of rugby, the sport could be one of the last to be considered to resume. He said the sport goes against the new normal, which is social distancing. He said an elongated period without action would affect players in a big way. “Players are not able to engage in meaningful trainings and rugby is a highly contact sport and if these restrictions continue it may mean that no meaningful rugby activities would happen this year. Our sponsors, especially at club level, would also be affected by the pandemic and it means they are not able to readily provide the support that keeps our sport functioning,” he said.

He said the COVID-19 pandemic poses an existential threat to continued rugby action. When the government decided to impose a lockdown last month, the BRU leagues; Super Rugby, President’s Cup, Reserve 10’s and Women’s 7’s had just started. Initially, all league fixtures were suspended until April 15 pending advice from the health officials on the spread of the virus. But with the country still on lockdown, further action was not possible. The BRU topflight league, Super Rugby had

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started on a high note with the defending champion, Gaborone Hogs stamping their authority in their season opener by beating their crosstown rivals, BDF Cheetahs 31-13.

BRU vice president administration, Oupa Pandor said the resumption of rugby activities hinges on a number of factors, including the impact on the grants that BRU receives from the Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC).

He said the activities would also depend on the time available after lockdown. Pandor said they also have to consider how the outbreak of COVID-19 has affected clubs.

“There are many things that come to the fore. Even though our league does not have a sponsor, we have to pay for medical emergency assistance, match officials and grounds that we use for our games,” he said.

Clubs survive on gate-takings and activities they carry out when they host matches. Meanwhile, on the brighter side, Mutenheri said there are new changes at World Rugby (WR), with about three South Africans now occupying decision-making positions within the world rugby body. “This could turn out to turn around rugby fortunes in Africa and Botswana rugby may benefit. I also think crises such as these provide opportunities for innovation and growth. I hope the new team at the helm of BRU is up to the task to resurrect and resuscitate rugby,” he said.



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