The South African rugby league season is back up and running, with matches taking place in the Rhino and Protea Cup competitions.
Like all other sports in the wake of the Covid-19 restrictions, the South Africa Rugby League Sport Association had to ensure full compliance with the existing return-to-play protocols, however, the 20 months of inactivity did not dampen their enthusiasm for rugby league.
At the start of the new season, 14 northern-based clubs have initially returned to action, based in towns and cities as diverse as Pretoria, Brits, Boksburg, Springs, Marble Hall, Cape Town, Witbank and Ermelo.
Division 1, with the Rhino Cup at stake, includes Pretoria, University of Pretoria (Tuks RL Red and Tuks RL Blue), Grizzlies, Knights, Bulldogs, Spartan and the reformed St. Helens Vultures. Division 2, for the Protea Cup, features Loskop Leopards, Tomahawks, Silverbacks, Millstream Wolverines, St. Helens Vultures 2 and Spartan 2.
SARLSA president, Dr Frans Erasmus, said: “There will be the affiliation of a number of additional clubs across the country in due course. Activity in Cape Town, in particular, is closely monitored and assisted in order to advance the extension of the sport into the Western Cape. This augurs well for the return to normality and the hosting of a regular rugby league season.
“South African rugby league in the past decade has really had a struggle, not only financially but politically, and also amongst the sports fraternity here. In 2015 there was a court case about the ownership of the competition between our former president Kobus Botha, who has recently so sadly passed away from Covid, and Dave Van Reenen. From 2012 we lost a lot of clubs and players and the sport was really going down the slope, but Kobus put in the mechanisms to stop that slide, we will miss his input massively.”
Dr Erasmus continued: “We have started to train a lot of coaches and match officials with the hope of creating a hub in the country which can help all the African nations, as well as create greater and more regular competition, hopefully leading to World Cup qualification from the continent.
“There are a lot of things happening in the background and former dormant clubs - like St Helens Vultures based in Springs and another in Rustenberg - that are knocking on the door again.”