South Africa considering domestic competition to replace Super Rugby

Sikhumbuzo Notshe beats the tackle of Herschel Jantjies in a South African Super Rugby derby between the Sharks and the Stormers at Jonsson Kings Park in Durban. Steve Haag/Gallo Images/Getty Images

SA Rugby is exploring various interim playing options, with plans to restructure South African rugby competitions under discussion in the wake of the measures introduced to deal with the global coronavirus pandemic.

The plans could see South African franchises and other provincial teams contest a locally-based derby competition in view of the current suspension of Super Rugby and the PRO14.

"SA Rugby is currently evaluating all our competition structures, with a view to restructure it in the interim so that we are able to afford game time to all our franchise and provincial teams," SA Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux said in a press release.

"Obviously, nothing can happen in the next few weeks until the 'period of social distancing', as instructed by President Cyril Ramaphosa, has lapsed.

South African Super Rugby teams the Bulls and Lions are presently in 14-day periods of self-isolation; the Lions had just returned from their tour of Australia New Zealand, while the Bulls headed home having played just one match on tour, against Queensland Reds last Saturday.

"We are considering local derby matches between our South African teams. We must still drill into the specifics, but we are confident we will be able to put a feasible plan on the table that will be suitable for everyone.

"These are extraordinary times which call for extraordinary measures and it also offers us an opportunity to be innovative.

SA Rugby president Mark Alexander had previously announced that the union supported "wholeheartedly and without hesitation" the government's policies and objectives designed to combat the spread of the coronavirus in South Africa, having been briefed along with other national sports federations by the Minister for Sports, Arts & Culture, Nathi Mthethwa.

"We wholeheartedly and without hesitation are completely aligned to the government's aggressive approach to attempting to curb this pandemic," Alexander said in a press release.

"All rugby has been suspended until the end of April and we have changed our business practices to support the need for 'social distancing'.

"I call on the entire rugby fraternity to play their part in support of the government in curbing this pandemic. The Springboks showed last year that we as a nation are stronger when we are together and now is the time for all of us to act.

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South Africa's director of rugby, Rassie Erasmus, meanwhile, announced that plans were already in place to continue national team preparations during the suspension of all training and alignment camps and business travel as part of the measures in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Scheduled Springboks alignment camps, Springboks Women's training camps, as well as the Junior Springboks' and Blitzboks' preparations have been suspended until Apr. 14.

"While there are challenges when it comes to face-to-face interaction with players and team activities, modern communication methods make it possible for coaches, players and management teams to keep in constant contact with one another," Erasmus said in an SA Rugby press release.

"Nothing beats sitting around a table or running around on the training field, but this is not a unique situation to us here in South Africa and, without going into too much detail, we can confirm that the work has not stopped and we are hard at work preparing for our forthcoming Tests, other matches or tournaments."

The Springboks' home Tests against Scotland and Georgia in July, the Youth Week tournaments, and Currie Cup, remain as scheduled but will be reviewed in April.