The Sunday Mail
DESPITE their game facing a long wait on the sidelines after being deemed too risky to resume, the Zimbabwe Rugby Union (ZRU) are plotting a massive rebound when the sport eventually gets the greenlight to continue.
Rugby and other contact sports such as football, netball, karate, basketball and boxing remain suspended in Zimbabwe due to the coronavirus as they are considered by Government to be high-risk disciplines.
It has also emerged that World Rugby are reportedly considering dramatic changes in regulations governing the sport in a bid to kick-start the international game after the Covid-19 pandemic.
The governing body is apparently looking at ways players can minimise time spent in close-contact situations.
The Times reports that World Rugby’s Law Review Group has identified scrums and mauls as high-risk areas of the game that could be adapted or removed entirely by unions around the world to resume competition.
It is believed that free-kicks could replace scrums and mauls could be removed from the game, while lineouts could go uncontested.
“The face-to-face contact in the scrums and rucks is unique and that is what is being looked at closely,’’ a source told the newspaper.
“The idea is to provide options for the professional and the community game below that, particularly if they do not have access to testing,’’ the source added.
For ZRU, the lockdown has not been about resting on their laurels or moaning and groaning while they await the greenlight from the Government and health authorities.
ZRU vice president (Southern Region) Martin Shone told The Sunday Mail Sport that his constituency is yearning for a return to action.
Shone, however, insists they would stick to the guidelines provided by the Government and health authorities for rugby to bounce back.
The ZRU vice president said despite having to grapple with the extended lockdown, the union had been hard at off-field work.
“What we done is we have discussed with our coaches both at national level and schools to give their players programmes to do while at home.
“Most schools have formed groups where learners are sharing the fitness programmes, so the boys and girls have not stopped training,’’ Shone said.
The confirmation by South Africa of the 2020 SuperSport Challenge Cup, he added, had lifted spirits within the domestic rugby family as it provides the Sables with a platform to play more competitive international action.
“As ZRU, we have used the time afforded by the lockdown to sort out a lot of the outstanding administration issues that we had been having, including resolving the Bulawayo Metropolitan problems.
“We had our executive committee meeting two days ago via Zoom, so both the secretariat and presidium have been busy at work.
“Of course lockdown has been a major setback because we had massive plans for the game this season and now it basically a whole year that has been lost.
“We had the Super 6; we were planning to start Sevens that would go all year round, and in-between there were a number of international Sevens tournaments. In fact we had full package for Sevens, but it could not go ahead. The guys have continued with training. It is just that we cannot have normal contact,’’ Shone said.
Most clubs have not been saddled by huge wage and salary bills during the lockdown because local rugby “had largely remained amateurish”, he said.
“The good thing is that in Zimbabwe rugby is largely amateur and many play it out of passion. Guys actually spend and invest more into playing the game than what they are paid.
“It is that passion which makes me presume that once we get the greenlight, the guys will come out exploding. From the interactions I have had with them, they cannot just wait to get back to the fields and do what they love to do, which play rugby.”
ZRU is confident that schools and clubs will be able to regain the lost momentum after the lockdown. The union will also approach Government for funding and capacity-building once the pandemic has been contained.
“We could do with a lot of funding. It costs money to run our programmes and the grant we get from World Rugby is inadequate”.