Tue, 29 Sep 2020

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"The players have come back in better shape than we expected. They clearly used lockdown's extra downtime to good use. You can really see how they've missed the game. We've done so too. The game means a lot to everyone."

Making that sentiment even more heartening is the fact that local rugby's men and women are carrying on their duties while absorbing significant pay cuts until at least December, all part of SA Rugby's Industry Financial Impact Plan.

That initiative - a collaborative effort between the federation, MyPlayers, Sport Employees Unite and the South African Rugby Employers' Organisation - was designed to save R1.2 billion in a Covid-19 ravaged economy.

Its magnitude is, frankly, staggering.

On 27 March, the four parties came together to establish their working group to deal with the virus crisis.

Six days later, the group announced that the Industry Plan had been completed and would go through its approval phase.

By 21 April, it had been ratified.

Within a month, South Africa's professional rugby community had come together to swiftly mitigate a threat that, while still enormously challenging currently, seemed insurmountable at the time.

There was the drama of Western Province having to prove that they didn't break the collective agreement with the Pieter-Steph du Toit contract saga and the Lions subsequently exploring their options with regards to Malcolm Marx, but overall the process was a triumph.

A recent study found that South Africa's job losses related to Covid-19 tallied between 2.5 million and 3.6 million, vividly illustrating the devastating economic effects of the pandemic.

From 1 May to the end of December, none of rugby's approximately 1 500 employees would've lost their jobs.

Some will point to a slice of luck.

Others will highlight the game's canny organisational ability.

But what it should really tell us is that if South African rugby puts its sideshows aside, it can achieve significant unity.

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