Competitive professional sport in South Africa has taken another step closer towards returning following the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
It follows the weekend’s announcement by Sports Minister Nathi Mthethwa that non-contact codes including swimming, cricket, athletics, tennis and golf would be allowed under Level 3 of the country’s lockdown conditions.
While training will also be allowed in contact sports such as rugby and football, matches will not be allowed.
Mthethwa also said discussions with administrators from football and rugby were ongoing but the ministry’s director general Vusumusi Mkhize suggested that Level 1 (the lowest level) of the lockdown was a realistic prediction for when contact sports will be able to resume competition.
Before any return to competition or practising is allowed, sports bodies and professional clubs have to provide the minister with details, in writing and within 14 days, of the date of resumption together with an operational guideline of how they will ensure the safety of the players and officials involved.
“One of the purposes of the direction is to allow professional non-contact sport to host, in a staggered way, sports events without spectators and professional athletes to train irrespective of whether it is contact or non-contact sport,” Mthethwa told a media briefing.
The announcement could potentially pave the way for South Africa’s men’s cricket team to host India in a three-match T20 series behind closed doors at the end of August.
The annual Nedbank Challenge golf tournament, labelled Africa’s Major, is now also likely to go ahead at Sun City on its rescheduled date of 3-6 December.
Although the country’s professional rugby and soccer teams may have to wait a while longer before they get the green light to resume playing, being allowed to train has given them encouragement that they could be able to resume in the near future.
Amateur codes have, however, been left frustrated and many have made representations to resume amid the serious prospect of closing down due to financial losses.