South African rugby is set to resume in the next few weeks but it appears likely that the bulk of Currie Cup fixtures will be played in summer.
While the Super Rugby season starts in February, which is the hottest month of the year in most places across South Africa, it will be unusual to play the traditional winter sport in the hight of summer and it will pose certain challenges.
Currie Cup to feel the heat
Cheetahs coach Hawies Fouries believes that player’s health and wellbeing will need to bo monitored closely.
The mentor of the Free State side was particularly concerned about trips to Durban, which is infamous for its humidity, and has suggested that fixtures may need to be staged later in the evening.
In the past Currie Cup matches have been played in 15:00 and 17:00 kick-off slots but a summer tournament may see these shifted to 19:00 and 21:00.
SA Rugby have yet to fix a date for the start of the Currie Cup but it has been reported that 10 October has been pencilled in. With a double-round event planned this would see the oldest provincial rugby tournament end in January 2021.
“This is the time of the year when it’s hot everywhere, from Bloemfontein to Johannesburg to Kimberley, but especially Durban,” Fourie told the Citizen.
“In Durban, with the humidity, the ball becomes like a piece of soap, so I imagine games will kick off at [19:00] and [21:00] to play it safe.”
Fourie pointed to past incidents where matches were played in extreme temperatures, recalling the time the Cheetahs took on the Reds in an early season clash in a sweltering Bloemfontein when Cheetahs skipper and Bok loose forward Juan Smith collapsed in the dressing room. Since then Super Rugby has steered clear of early afternoon kick-offs in summer.
“After the game, Juan passed out in the dressing room due to heat exhaustion,” Fourie said. “Since that day in 2010 steps were taken that games played in such warm conditions shouldn’t commence before 16:00.”
The summer timetable also poses the increased risk of matches being affected by thunderstorms, especially on the Highveld.
In New Zealand, the Super Rugby Aoteroa tournament was staged to replace the scheduled contests and the NPC will start next weekend.
The All Blacks and Wallabies are set to meet in Bledisloe Cup Tests in October with Queensland mooted as the hub for the interantionals.