Sun, 25 Oct 2020

Of South Africa's three major sporting codes - soccer, rugby and cricket - it is only the latter that can return to play under Level 3 regulations of the country's national lockdown.

There are no winners when it comes to the impacts of the coronavirus, but it is safe to say that cricket has been given a unique opportunity during all the uncertainty and chaos.

All non-contact professional sports in South Africa can return to play from this month, after they have pitched a proposal to government and had it approved.

Contact sports, like soccer and rugby, can return to training but playing matches is still prohibited leaving the PSL and Super Rugby dead in the water.

Both SAFA and SA Rugby are continually engaging with government in an effort to find a way back, but over the weekend it was suggested by the department of sport and recreation that contact sports would likely only return to play in Level 1.

South African golf and tennis, on a professional level at least, are also allowed back, though neither has the pull of cricket from a broadcaster's perspective in South Africa.

Cricket South Africa (CSA) has a window now where they can almost be the monopoly in terms of local, live sports content in the country.

The players are technically on their off-season and a tour to West Indies in July might not happen because of travel restrictions, but the fact that South Africa can host matches again should be capitalised on in an intelligent, attractive and unique way.

The Proteas host India for three T20s in late August, but that is nearly three months away.

The Sunshine Tour, South African golf's professional circuit, should also look to capitalise on this window.

The fact that social golf is still banned has been a topic of robust conversation in recent weeks and it is placing the industry under massive financial strain. If there are ways to televise events in the weeks to come that could inject funds into the industry, then they should be explored.

SuperSport, of course, will be central to any of these developments.

There has been limited live sport on our television screens for the last two months and while the Premier League and New Zealand's Super Rugby Aotearoa are set to kick off shortly, there is still nothing in the way of South African content.

With that in mind, here are a few ideas of what SuperSport and the country's sporting administrators could put together.

There are obviously a range of issues to consider, from logistics to sponsorships to safe practice, but we can dream!

Proteas v Springboks T20

These games are always a laugh. Who could forget Willie le Roux's blinding one-handed catch at long-off to dismiss Kagiso Rabada in 2014? The Nelson Mandela Legacy Cup gives the South African sports fan an injection of happiness, and that is needed now more than ever. The charity element would obviously make it a worthwhile exercise, and while it will be strange having a match like this in an empty stadium in front of no spectators, it could still be the perfect way for South African sport to return to SuperSport. The Springboks remain a marketing dream given their success at the 2019 Rugby World Cup. I'd pay to see Kagiso Rabada charging in at Siya Kolisi or Rassie Erasmus.

SA T20 Invitational

With the T20 Cricket World Cup the Proteas' priority for the year, preparation is key. If the West Indies tour is scrapped, as expected, then the Proteas will lose out on five valuable T20 matches. If that is the case, then why not host something at home? CSA has spoken about the possibility of creating a cricket 'bio-bubble' - a sterile environment where teams could be based for weeks at a time. We could have four invitational teams made of players in and around the Proteas set-up, based at the same venue and playing against each other for two weeks, with all of the matches televised. It could serve as preparation for the T20 World Cup as well as trials.

SA's 'The Match'

The recent Tiger Woods (Peyton Manning) v Phil Mickelson (Tom Brady) 'The Match' at Medalist Golf Club last weekend was a hit. The event raised $20 million for the USA's Covid-19 relief fund. There were only the above mentioned four involved in the production, but if South Africa could host some form of charity golf day or weekend with sports stars from all over the country included, then it could be highly successful. The success of something like this depends almost solely on the quality of the broadcast, and that is where SuperSport would have to deliver something special. Golf is also considered the easiest sport to facilitate from a social distancing point of view.

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