AAP Rugby

No rugby for RWC holder South Africa

By AAP Newswire

The South African government maintained a ban on all contact sports competitions 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 on Saturday 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 if protocols are in place to minimise 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."

SA Rugby had been hoping to play again and hold a domestic event to make some money, matching competitions planned in New Zealand and Australia.

"We do not run hospitals or build ventilators and we are not an industry that is critical to the South African economy, but we do believe that we add huge value to national life in other ways," Roux said.

South Africa's Super Rugby teams have been out of action since the southern hemisphere club competition was postponed in mid-March.

The Springboks' July matches against Scotland and Georgia, the first time the national team was scheduled to play since winning last year's World Cup, were postponed as World Rugby announced its entire mid-year Test window would be rescheduled.

Cash-strapped SA Rugby has announced salary cuts of between 25 per cent and 43 per cent, including for its players, this month in an effort to save up to $US70 million ($A105 million).

South Africa has more than 29,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the most in Africa, and 611 people have died.