Namibia: Rugby Divided Over Restart

DESPITE the Namibia Rugby Union giving the go ahead for local rugby leagues to commence next month, it looks highly unlikely that they will.

At its annual general meeting on 27 June the NRU council voted in favour of starting a single round league on 8 August, as well as several other exhibition matches for the Welwitschias team.

"We have plans in place and the NRU council has decided to start the leagues on 8 August with a single round," the president of the NRU, Corrie Mensah confirmed on Monday.

"We have three leagues in the Premier League, Reserve League and the First League and then we also want to have women's rugby and sevens rugby, as well as exhibition matches involving the Welwitchias this year," he added.

The plans, however, immediately drew opposition as Western Suburbs and United voted against it at the AGM, while more clubs on Monday indicated that they were not too keen to participate in a league under the current Covid-19 circumstances.

Western Suburbs president Keith Allies was the first to publicly declare their opposition last week when he said that Suburbs will not participate and yesterday he reiterated their stance.

"Western Suburbs will not participate in a league this year. We have already heard that other clubs will also not play, and then we are not even talking about the coastal clubs like Kudus who will in any case not be allowed to play," he said.

Mensah, however, said that clubs had to abide by the NRU council's decision.

"Keith can say what he wants, but the NRU council which consists of the club chairmen and is the highest authority of the NRU made this democratic decision, so they have to abide by it," he said.

"It's not the NRU board that made this decision, but the NRU council. The board's responsibility is just to put guidelines and criteria in place to be able to make the competition possible. The board is also busy negotiating with World Rugby to see if we can get some funding for our leagues," he added.

Mensah, however, agreed that under current circumstances the coastal teams will not be able to compete and yesterday several other clubs also indicated their unwillingness to participate.

"We won't compete, mainly due to safety concerns and the risk that is involved," the chairman of United, Winmar Rust said.

Ÿou normally have four teams playing over a weekend, and if you have one positive case then the whole club will be sick and as a club committee we don't want that on our hands. We obviously would love to play, but we need to think further ahead," he added.

"Suburbs are already out, Kudus are not allowed to play, and I heard that Unam will also not play, so what's the point of playing and against who will we play now. So I think we must just cut our losses and start again next year," he said.

Wanderers' chairman Willem van Zyl said it was unlikely that they would participate.

"After Suburbs and United withdrew, we discussed the situation and decided that we don't want to compete in a watered-down league. We still have to discuss it with the NRU, but it's highly unlikely that we will participate," he said.

"Financially it's also not viable and it will be difficult to implement the Covid-19 regulations with a limit of 250 people at a match. Wanderers is a big club with six sub-codes so it will be very difficult to maintain those numbers, while there is a host of other rules and regulations to implement," he said.

"The economy is still struggling and a lot of our younger players now have to work overtime to try and catch up with their work, so they have also told us they will not be available to play," he added.

Reho Falcons' team manager, Deon Mouton said their players were not keen to participate.

"We talked to the players last week and they are not keen to play because they feel the risk is too high. We must still talk to the NRU and our sponsors, but we can't force players to play if they don't want to so it's unlikely that we will play," he said.

"We won't be able to play in Rehoboth in any case due to the stringent requirements needed at the stadium. We don't have a pavilion so it will be very difficult to implement social distancing and the other requirements," he added.

Rehoboth Rugby Club's chairman Marcelle Diergaardt, however, said they were keen to play.

"If we don't start now then when will we start. If we are afraid to start playing now then we will also be afraid next year and then we will never start playing. Who says the virus will have disappeared by then," he said.

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