How has training been for the Isuzu Southern Kings during lockdown? When do you foresee the side returning to group training?

Training has gone very well. The players have bought into all the programs and daily monitoring of their progression. We have completed Phase 1 of our baseline aerobic conditioning and all players that met the positional goals and requirements have moved on to Phase 2. These two phases are very important for us as they have been neglected in the past, so the players now have a firm base to build from.

We have already put in place the medical Return to Play (RTP) protocol and will start with small groups when the government and SA Rugby allow us to do so. It is quite a process that the players and staff need to go through before we can start functioning in larger groups to ensure the safety of all concerned.

Despite the lack of action, the lockdown period is likely to have been good for injured players. How has it aided the recovery of those players, and what is the latest injury update?

It is all good news on this front. The players are tracking very well, and the majority just need a physical Return to Play component to be signed off by our medical team for full integration. It is just Bader Pretorius and CJ Velleman that have a few more weeks to go until they can join the fray.

Has there been any confirmation of returning to action – be it in the Guinness PRO14 or any other competition? How do you feel about a domestic competition which includes all SA franchises?

Our COO, Leigh Heard, has been busy engaging with PRO14 Rugby on the various options for a return to play. Those decisions and announcements will be made at the opportune time once the powers that be have made decisions.

For us, a domestic competition would be a significant step in the right direction, not just for the Isuzu Southern Kings, but SA Rugby in general.

The benefits for SA Rugby as whole are numerous and outlined below:

  • Perfect preparation for PRO 14 Rugby
  • A senior professional conduit for the Isuzu Southern Kings to play in before going into an international competition, the Guinness PRO14. The Cheetahs are a perfect model for this reason – winning last year’s Currie Cup and then taking that momentum into the Guinness PRO14, and winning their first three games comfortably in the Guinness PRO14
  • This is in the best interest for both the Cheetahs and Isuzu Southern Kings, and more so for the perception of SA Rugby sides in a Northern Hemisphere competition
  • The number of potential young players that are coming through the Isuzu Southern Kings system into mainstream senior professional ranks – PONI players, and younger SA Under-20 apprentice players already being blooded in PRO14 Rugby
  • A gauge for SA Rugby and Bok management of the competitiveness of all the franchises, players and coaches across the Currie Cup Premiership, and the base of such for the longevity of the Senior Professional game in South Africa
  • Traction of broadcast interest and supporter base in a fully-fledged senior Currie Cup Premier Division with all SA’s top players from all international and provincial competitions playing
  • A conduit for Bok management and SA Rugby to gauge all the top players in senior professional rugby in SA
  • A competitive avenue to explore the player base of potential players in SA that could play in the SA teams for international competitions.

How ready would the team be should there be an opportunity to get back to action? What areas of focus are there with the possibility of a return to play looming?

We will have put all the necessary structures in place for a smooth transition into a Return to Play model.

The focus is always on the improved performance of the players. One aspect we have concentrated hard on is the conditioning, which was a standout problem or concern from last season. We will endeavour to implement much of the intellectual property we have collected from the review of last season’s matches and the incredible foresight consultant, Swys de Bruin, has imparted on the players and team.

Are there any updates on player movements, incoming or outgoing?

Unfortunately, we have had to bid farewell to a number of stalwarts of the Isuzu Southern Kings. We all wish them the very best wherever their endeavours may take them next. They have been true gentlemen of the game and great assets to the world of rugby and indeed the Isuzu Southern Kings. These are:

  • Schalk Ferreria
  • Roussouw de Klerk
  • Sarel Pretorius
  • Demetri Catrakillis