Cape Town, South Africa | URN | Rugby Africa, the administrative body for rugby union across Africa has cancelled all its competitions this year including the Rugby Africa Cup which was supposed to start last weekend. The other affected competitions include the U-20 Bathes Trophy, Rugby Africa Women’s Cup and the Rugby 7’s, among others.
The decision is an outcome of consultative online meetings held over the last two months with federations and doctors concerning the health situation in a world paralyzed by COVID-19.
Through the consultations, it emerged that the current bans on travel, public gatherings and sporting events across Africa mean it is unlikely competitions will start up again on the continent this year.
The federations observed that not all African nations will lift restrictions at the same time or in the same way which would compromise some countries’ participation. The other reason for the cancellation was that potential quarantine requirements could require some players to spend much longer periods abroad.
The Rugby Africa Medical Committee also highlights that the variable evolution of COVID-19 in different parts of Africa does not enable a clear picture of when the pandemic will peak in Africa and when the end will be in sight.
Dr Elvis Tano, head of the Rugby Africa Medical Committee guided that the health and safety of players, fans, staff, partners and local communities remain the top priority of the organisation and added that, “There is still too much uncertainty what course the pandemic will take over the next few weeks to feel confident about resuming competitions.”
There is a consensus among the Rugby Africa Executive Committee and its member federations to focus efforts on restarting local-level activities and competitions as soon as health conditions permit.
The shared desire is to ensure grassroots rugby is relaunched and get national teams ready in an appropriate manner to restart continent-wide competitions in 2021 if possible.
Rugby Africa is also strengthening support for federations and is considering where financial resources allow, the release of a one-off solidarity fund for rugby team activities and preparations.
Although the official 2020 competition schedule has been cancelled, Rugby Africa says it will support cross-border matches or sub-regional tournaments organised by federations where possible in 2020.
But, the medical teams will review such initiatives first to ensure that the health situation and government regulations permit rugby events being held.
Rugby Africa Vice President Andrew Owor states that the cancellation was one of the most difficult decisions ever made but it also seems to be the most reasonable option given the current circumstances.
“We clearly had plenty of reasons to resume the 2019-20 season but considering the exceptional situation, we must prioritize our community’s health first and foremost. By doing so, we remain true to our convictions. However, we still hope to be able to organize some matches this year,” Owor says.
He adds that over the next few months, “we have a single mission: to do our utmost to help our communities to come back stronger and get local-level competition up and running as soon as possible. Given Africa’s size and diversity, a localized approach makes sense.”