COVID-19 leaves women’s rugby in a lurch

Springbok women players. Photo by Lee Warren/Gallo Images

from DION HENRICK in Cape Town
CAPE TOWN, (CAJ News) – THE Springboks Women’s Sevens team is wearing a brave face in the midst of the coronavirus (COVID-19) scourge denying them an opportunity to take on the world after having conquered the continent.

The Challenger Series was initially slated for the end of March in Stellenbosch but was postponed at a time when South Africa officially went into lockdown.

World Rugby has officially cancelled the event, the umpteenth time COVID-19 has gotten the better of a global sporting event.

While the men’s series has also been cancelled, together with the remainder of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series for 2019/20, it is harder to bear for the women as theirs was the inaugural event.

Another bitter blow for South Africa’s women is that the cancellation of the Challenger Series denied the side, informally, known as Imbokodo, automatic qualification to the World Series events.

It leaves them dependent on invites.

“We are all fully respectful and supportive of World Rugby’s decision,” Imbokodo coach, Paul Delport, said.

He conceded nonetheless the turn of events had derailed their aspirations.

“It does mean that we will only be able to contest for a core spot next season, which is not what we had planned for,” the coach added.

The local side must contend with the likes of China, Kenya and Japan for that single slot.

It is a setback for the Springbok Women’s Sevens team that won Rugby Africa’s Sevens title last year

“We need to make the best of the extended time created by this (COVID-19) and we are keen to do so,” Delport said.

Sir Bill Beaumont, World Rugby Chairman, noted the cancellation had been disappointing for the players, fans, organisers and other stakeholders.

“These difficult decisions have been taken following detailed consultation with our union partners and in line with advice from the various government and public health agencies around the world, given the global nature of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series,” Beaumont stated.

World Rugby launched the Challenger Series earlier this year to boost rugby sevens’ development across the world.

At the time of publishing, more than 10, 500, 00 coronavirus cases were were recorded globally, more than 580, 000 death confirmed while another more than 500, 000 recoveries were made.

– CAJ News

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