Back to training as sports teams get thumbs up

Professional rugby and soccer teams in South Africa can resume training on June 1, under level three of the national lockdown regulations, but they will not be allowed to play matches.

That was the message from sports minister Nathi Mthethwa on Saturday as he confirmed that professional contact sport would be allowed to return to training in a staggered, controlled manner.

Non-contact professional sports, meanwhile, were given the green light to resume training and competing.

However, all sports which wanted to resume training or playing would have 14 days to submit their proposals to government to map out, procedurally, how they would ensure the safety of the players and officials involved.

All sports events would take place behind closed doors in empty stadiums, government confirmed, and the control measures would be strict, with massages, ice-baths and saunas all banned, while physiotherapists would be able to work only on injured athletes.

"This is the news sport has been waiting to hear as it allows us to begin to ramp up preparations for an eventual return-to-play," said SA Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux, in reaction to the announcement.

"We submitted a comprehensive, staged return-to-play protocols document to the department five weeks ago and we are ready to begin medical screening of players immediately.

"We will seek further clarity from the department on the application of the guidelines as they apply to contact training, but this is an opportunity for our players to enhance their lockdown training regimes by increasing their fitness work for an eventual return to play."

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