South African rugby has been given the green light for a return to action, it was confirmed on Thursday, after the news was gazetted by sports minister Nathi Mthethwa.
Under strict health and safety regulations, the domestic game could resume within bio-bubbles behind closed doors.
“We are very grateful for the opportunity to move to the next phase of our return-to-play plans and will provide the department (of sport, arts and culture) with all the necessary information required, such as venues for matches, to ensure a smooth transition to competitive rugby,” said SA Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux.
“Having said that, our eight franchise teams that returned to the training field recently still need a few more weeks of preparation before they will be ready for matches, and from SA Rugby’s side we will assist them with whatever is necessary.
“At this stage, we hope to have our first matches by early to mid-September and our plans on the structure of the planned competition will be announced in due course, as we have various options to consider.”
The return to international competition was not permitted under the new regulations, despite World Rugby recently announcing that the Rugby Championship would be held in New Zealand in November and December, but Roux said they understood the government’s need to phase a return to normality.
“We’re hopeful that in due course the government will be in a position to further relax the restrictions,” Roux said.
“For now, it’s most important to ensure we get the action underway as we have many stakeholders, such as our broadcast partner, competition and team sponsors and our supporters, who are keen to see some rugby again.”