CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - South Africa Rugby said on Friday professional teams will be able to return to contact training from next week but that it is not ready to confirm the schedule of a seven-team domestic competition that is set to start in September.
"The teams have been hard at work with non-contact training for the past five weeks, and once a final COVID-19 test has been passed, they will be able to step up a gear next week," SA Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux said in a statement.
Super Rugby sides the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers are set to tackle PRO14 outfit the Cheetahs, and domestic teams Pumas and Griquas in a local competition that SA Rugby had hoped would begin by the middle of next month.
"Once we’ve finalised all the relevant plans and we’ve aligned with our broadcast partner, sponsors, franchises and other stakeholders, we’ll confirm the playing schedule," said Roux.
New Zealand and Australia have already set up domestic competitions but South Africa has been much harder hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. As of Thursday the country had recorded 618,286 cases with 13,628 deaths.
Jacques Nienaber, the new coach of the world champions Springboks, has already said if players cannot get a good amount of game-time ahead of the proposed Rugby Championship in New Zealand they will not take part in the 2020 competition.
The proposed dates for the Championship are Nov. 7 to Dec. 12.
(Reporting by Nick Said; Editing by Peter Rutherford)