Professional rugby and soccer teams in South Africa can resume training under Level 3 of the national lockdown regulations starting on Monday, 1 June, but they will not be allowed to resume matches.
That was the message from sports minister Nathi Mthethwa on Saturday as he confirmed that professional contact sport will be allowed to resume training in a staggered, controlled manner.
Non-contact professional sports, meanwhile, have been given the green light to resume training and playing.
All professional sports teams and administrators who want to resume training or playing now have 14 days to submit their proposals to government to map out, procedurally, how they will ensure the safety of the players and officials involved.
All sport will take place behind closed doors in empty stadiums and the control measures are strict with massages, ice-baths and saunas banned while physiotherapists will only be able to work on injured athletes.
“All sporting codes will be expected back at training,” Mthethwa said.
“Our athletes have not been in training and we do not want to have them out of shape forever. The process of training will ensue for both contact and non-contact sport.”
Mthethwa added that discussions with administrators from the football and rugby sectors were ongoing, while director general Vusumusi Mkhize said at the end of the briefing that Level 1 of the lockdown was a realistic prediction for when contact sports will return to play.
“We have a very good relationship with the sports bodies,” said Mkhize.
“Yesterday (Friday) we had a meeting with the president of SAFA and doctors from SAFA and the PSL and they were very elaborate on their plans, which incorporate FIFA guidelines.
“In terms of rugby, doctors from the sporting fraternity after a lot of consultation with epidemiologists and various personnel from a scientific perspective and what it means for a return to play, they clearly outlined some of the core issues that they have.
“The various codes have been submitting to government individually from tennis, cricket, golf … everyone has been submitting to us and that is what assisted us in crafting the directions that the minister has read.”