- SA Rugby and the PRO14 can’t be accused of not exploring all their options to make the Rainbow Cup a reality.
- In excess of 20 locations – each with their own project plans – were identified to let the South African teams fulfil their overseas fixtures in the UK and Ireland.
- But the lesson is clear: During Covid-19, governments are the ringmasters for sport.
Whether it provides comfort to a South African fan base that will have to settle for more local derbies is an open question, but SA Rugby can’t be accused of not trying hard enough to make an overseas leg of the Rainbow Cup a reality.
“No stone was left unturned” was the official phrasing from the local governing body, who also suggested that there might’ve even been a remote chance of a fully-fledged tournament still taking place had it not been for time constraints.
South Africa’s continued status as one of the countries on the United Kingdom’s ‘red list’ for travel bans probably would’ve continued to render any efforts as pointless.
Nonetheless, SA Rugby and PRO14 Rugby certainly pulled out all the stops.
A substantial number of locations were scouted as quarantining and base camps
No less than 12 venues across the UK, Ireland and Europe were identified as potential base camps for the South African franchises to operate from.
Some of them could even have served as a 10-day quarantining outlet as required by the various governments.
In addition to those venues, SA Rugby also explored four other spots for this purpose.
To illustrate the dedication to the cause, the federation even considered basing the SA teams in the Middle East and playing some of the fixtures against overseas opponents there.
Every potential venue had a detailed project plan
SA Rugby and PRO14 Rugby ensured that every base camp, so to speak, would have accommodation and training facilities available to suit the high-performance environment the local franchises required.
Another major consideration was whether those locations would be able to provide chartered flights to fit in with the tournament’s tight scheduling.
Venues in the Middle East were mooted as spaces where the teams could do their quarantining in.
A crack team was assembled to ensure medical protocols would be top notch
The two organisations established a Medical Management Committee (MMC), a collaborative outfit that included the PRO14’s official medical consultant, tournament staff and medical heads from the various participating teams.
Not only did the MMC provide substantial input on whether the potential base camps were in line with Covid-19 protocols, the group also tracked the spread of the virus in the relevant destinations where matches would’ve taken place and provided constant information on any changes in relevant government regulations that would’ve had an impact on the tournament.
“PRO14 Rugby has had great support of governments and health authorities in all jurisdictions,” a statement read.
No perfect solution existed
Despite all the hard work put in, there was simply no framework that would’ve made the tournament possible.
“The pieces of the jigsaw would not fall into place in time to allow us to put those plans into action,” said Jurie Roux, SA Rugby’s chief.
His PRO14 counterpart, Martin Anayi, stated: “Among our unions, our own staff and SA Rugby there’s no more that could have been asked in terms of designing plans that were medically sound. However, there has been no perfect solution found in time to allow for South African teams’ entry into our territories.”
The lesson here is clear: In these Covid-stricken times, governments are the ringmasters.