Lockdown: 100 days of zero sport in South Africa

As lockdown marks its 100th day in South Africa we look at the status of sport in the country and look forward to the return to action.

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Saturday 4 July marks 100 days since South Africa went into a national lockdown that has changed our lives, and since that day no sport has taken place in South Africa.

100 days of lockdown – sport

Sports minister Nathi Mthethwa has approved the return plans of limited sporting codes and federations but to date South African sports lovers have had to content themselves with imports.

Football restarted in Europe throughout the month of June, while New Zealand found a way to welcome crowds back with their Super Rugby Aotearoa tournament. This weekend Australia restarted their own Super Rugby stop-gap with the country already staging rugby league matches and AFL.

South African sport has also been absent for more than 100 days with most events called off a few weeks before President Cyril Ramaphosa locked the country down.

Super Rugby came to a halt in South Africa on 14 March with the Sharks 24-14 victory over the Stormers in Durban. After seven rounds of the new cancelled competition, the Sharks were on top of both the South African conference and the overall standings.

Rugby fans may have to wait for the restart of the Pro14 to see live action taking place in South Africa with the Cheetahs and troubled Southern Kings set for a derby double-header in August.

PSL waits

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100 days of lockdown and no sport: Samir Nurkovic of Kaizer Chiefs during the Nedbank Cup Last 32 match between Kaizer Chiefs and Royal Eagles on 08 February 2020 at FNB Stadium ,Soweto, Pic Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

The Premier Soccer League and the South African Football Association suspended all elite football in mid-March as well with Kaizer Chiefs topping the table when the enforced break came into effect.

Football came to a halt in South Africa after the Nedbank Cup quarterfinals weekend which saw Mamelodi Sundowns, Baroka FC, Bloemfontein Celtic and Bidvest Wits progress to the last four. Sundowns are drawn to face Wits while Baroka will meet Celtic if the competition is allowed to complete. During the lockdown Bidvest Wits sold their PSL Franchise but it is understood that the club will complete the 2019/20 before surrendering top-flight status to TTM of Limpopo.

In the league Kaizer Chiefs hold an advantage over their title rivals but it is by no means a decisive margin. Chiefs are just four points ahead of Sundowns who have a habit of finishing the league campaign on the charge. Mathematically the entire top eight of the table are in with a shout of claiming the league title although realistically it is a four horse race with Chiefs and Sundowns leading from Orlando Pirates and Supersport United.

Other sports

All golfers in South Africa are allowed to train and play rounds at their local club, whether they are on the Sunshine Tour or an amateur. Given the challenges faced by the much larger PGA Tour, the Sunshine Tour still has some work to do before it can resume play with many foreign players involved.

In touring car racing the start of the 2020 GTC Championship and inaugural GTC SupaCup has been suspended. The Championship had been set to get underway in April at Killarney.

In Tennis, South Africa suspended its planned ITF events and despite getting government approval to restart Tennis SA has yet to resume competitive play.

Sports with a shot at Olympic participation are desperate to get back to training at the very least in a bid not to lose ground on opponents from other nations.

Cricket South Africa are planning an event on Mandela Day, 18 July, even though they had not been set to stage any events until welcoming inbound tours at the end of the year. The Proteas were called home from India shortly before the lockdown was announced and have subsequently postponed tours to Sri Lanka and the Caribbean.

As sporting federations are given clearance we can expect the gradual return of elite sport in South Africa throughout the rest of the year. At the recreational level it remains unclear exactly when the general public will be allowed to engage in social and organised amateur sport.

Much like many other industries the business of sport has taken strain, smaller sports that count on government support or corporate sponsorships have taken strain and big organisations like SA Rugby have been forced to institute pay cuts and allow top talents to leave.

The effect of the lockdown and the ongoing global health crisis will reverberate through the sporting world for the next decade.

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