The southern hemisphere: COVID’s impact on rugby union

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The world is going through a tough time right now, which includes the rugby union community. However, it is not just a human toll, but an economic toll. This includes southern hemisphere countries with both Super Rugby and PRO14 teams.

COVID’s impact on the southern hemisphere

Africa

South Africa

According to RugbyPass, South Africa Rugby Federation has announced 25% pay cuts. These cuts included employees, players, and officials. The South African Rugby Federation made a more detailed overview of where the pay cuts are happening.

“The economies will be achieved by reduced expenditure following the cancellation of competitions (49.7% of savings), cuts in other operational budgets (37.3%) and in salary reductions (13%).”

According to SARugbyMag, an anonymous player revealed what this salary cut means:

“The top scale of the pay cut is going to be 43% and that will probably be until the end of August. If there is no rugby for the rest of the year the pay cuts will be until the 31st of December,” he said.

Adding, “we have three weeks to leave if we find another job overseas, but I don’t know what the market abroad looks like at this point in time. So, we are definitely in for difficult times now.”

Fortunately, there is a plan for South Africa to start playing professionally. This includes the two teams that play in PRO14. Unfortunately, South Africa is still in lockdown. Still, there are still some positive signs as cinemas and theatres, casinos, and sit-down for restaurants will be opened soon according to reuters.com.

There is a chance that the two South African PRO14 teams could play in August according to RugbyPass. There is even the possibility of the Super Rugby South African teams moving to PRO14. This would change the PRO14 name to PRO18. Although these reports were downplayed by SARU.

Furthermore, Jurie Roux, South African rugby boss, revealed he has some reservations about playing in PRO14 right now (staff reporter, extratime.media).

Americas

Argentina

The Jaguares, who formed in 2015, are the oldest professional rugby team of either code in the Americas. However, they are going through some tough times right now. The plan for the Super Rugby teams in the southern hemisphere is to play teams within their own country according to AFP of the thesouthafrican.com.

“The New Zealand teams will play in New Zealand, the Australians in Australia and the South Africans in South Africa,” said Jaguares captain Jeronimo de la Fuente “The Jaguares are left a bit isolated and we’re waiting to see if we get invited to another competition. It would be difficult but it’s also a possibility.”

The only hope of playing in a competitive competition is in South Africa. However, even that will prove to be costly. Also, no one knows what competition South Africa will play in. Will all teams play against one other or could they all play in PRO14 (to become PRO18)? No one really knows.

Lastly, Argentina is still in lockdown. As a result of this, the Jaguares players were told by the Argentine Rugby Union (ARU) to look elsewhere for places to play in according to RugbyPass.

Jaguares Players on the Situation

Former Jaguares wing Juan Manuel Leguizamón talks about the situation with the Jaguares.

“I’ve spoken to quite a few players and they’re waiting for a solution. There are 35 or 40 contracts that will disappear,” he said.

There is the new upstart Súper Liga Americana de Rugby (SLAR) league in South America that includes one Argentinian team. However, the level and pay in that league are lower than Super Rugby. Also, SLAR has suspended operations until 2021 according to americas rugby news.

One Jaguares player, De La Fuente explains how he is approaching the situation.

“I’m going to wait until the last minute to see what decision to take because I’m counting on.”

De La Fuente is one of six players from the Jaguares that will be out of contract after this year.

Oceania

Australia

All the Super Rugby players in Australia were forced to take a 60% pay cut according to The Guardian. Many Australian Super Rugby players have accepted the cuts. However, the Queensland Reds trio of Izack Rodda, Harry Hockings, and Isaac Lucas refused the pay cuts. This situation ended up with the players terminating their contracts with the Reds.

Australia has not done as well as New Zealand in preventing or eliminating the virus. However, they have done a lot better than most of the world. This is why many of their sporting events are taking place. Their competition is called Super Rugby Australia.

There is some good news though. According to the RTE, the ACT Brumbies of Super Rugby were given the green light to have up to 1,500 fans at Canberra Stadium. This way they make up at least some of the money that was lost because of COVID-19.

New Zealand

According to the Associated Press, the top players in New Zealand agreed to a 50% pay cut. Furthermore, it is anticipated that 50% of the payments will be withheld. This includes the All Blacks, Super Rugby players, the Black Ferns and Sevens teams. Lastly, if there is no more rugby being played the 2020 payments will be waived.

New Zealand has been a success story around the world in their battle with the Coronavirus. On June 8, this allowed New Zealand to end social distancing according to the japan times. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said;

“We united in unprecedented ways to crush the virus,” Ardern said at a news conference in Wellington. “Our goal was to move out the other side as quickly and as safely as we could. We now have a head-start on our economic recovery.”

This economic recovery is also related to sports. The New Zealand Super Rugby teams are playing in large crowds again in a competition called Super Rugby Aotearoa. There are a lot of positive things happening in New Zealand.

Overview of Rugby Union in the Southern Hemisphere

Australia and New Zealand have dealt with the coronavirus pandemic better than most countries in the world. That is why they can play Super Rugby games within their own countries.

Unfortunately, South Africa is not in a position to have Super Rugby games to take place. According to Hassan Isilow of aa.com.tr, the cases are going up again in South Africa. This may force South Africa to shut down their country again because of COVID-19.

According to Teresa Bo of Ali Jazeera, Argentina has extended its lockdown in Buenos Aires (where the Jaguares play in) and its surrounding regions because of a surge of coronavirus cases. Furthermore, unlike the three countries, there is no professional team in Argentina at the level of the Jaguares.

SLAR is a new professional league in South America. They have an Argentian team in Córdoba, Argentina called Ceibos although the quality is below Super Rugby.

Hopefully, the Jaguares can maintain their position in Super Rugby. They have proven to be a successful outfit. Last year, for example, the Jaguares lost in the 2019 Super Rugby Final to the Crusaders.

 

“Main photo credit”

Ross Geldenhuys of the Chiefs reacts after the loss in the round 3 Super Rugby Aotearoa match between the Crusaders and the Chiefs at Orangetheory Stadium on June 28, 2020 in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)