Where, why and how? – SA rugby’s bio-bubble debate

The Stormers have returned to full training in Cape Town. Picture: Gallo Images

Some think Gauteng is the best option for a domestic rugby bio-bubble, but others have questioned whether it’s necessary at all, as local franchises prepare for the upcoming campaign.

It is simply logical to hold the intended Currie Cup bio-bubble in Johannesburg, former Lions backline coach Neil de Bruin believes, as the debate continues around the possible conditions for domestic rugby’s return to action next month.

While SA Rugby confirmed last week that top-flight competition was likely to resume in mid-September with an expected eight-team tournament, the venue and conditions had not yet been unveiled.

And though the Lions and Bulls were based in Gauteng, De Bruin conceded on Wednesday that other teams would also want home-ground advantage, including Western Province in Cape Town and the Sharks in Durban.

“But it just makes sense to have it up here,” said De Bruin who was gearing up to join former Lions coach Johan Ackermann at the Docomo Red Hurricanes in Japan next month.

“The Cheetahs (based in Bloemfontein) are close by and the Lions and Bulls are already here… so I can’t think they will take it somewhere else.”

In Pretoria, new Bulls coach Jake White also felt Gauteng was the most viable option if a bio-bubble was used, and he had been told there was an option of two bio-bubbles being utilised in different cities.

He did not, however, feel it was necessarily the best approach.

“Our team doctor (Gerhard Louwrens) was telling me it will end up much cheaper testing (for Covid-19) every week,” White said recently.

“We could test every Wednesday morning and by that evening you can already have the results of your match squad back, and receive the necessary clearance.”

Elsewhere, Cheetahs chief executive Harold Verster was confident that Bloemfontein would be best suited for a potential bio-bubble.

“It just makes sense to hold it in Bloemfontein,” he said.

“We are centrally situated and the cost of living in Bloemfontein is low. And, after all, the Cheetahs are the reigning Currie Cup champions.”

Regardless of where it was held, Stormers coach John Dobson felt a bio-bubble approach would require playing the domestic campaign in patches.

“I think a bio-bubble would be mentally exhausting and financially very taxing, wherever it is,” Dobson said.

“So I would prefer for the bubble to be held only for a few weeks, and then the teams can return to their own fields… because a bubble of say three to four months is simply not realistic.”

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