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11 June 2020 | in NUSF News

South African university sport looks ahead to 2021

South African swimmers at Napoli 2019South African swimmers at Napoli 2019 Summer Universiade

With the COVID-19 Coronavirus continuing to affect sports activities across the globe, university sport authorities in South Africa have decided to officially cancel all tournaments for the rest of the year, placing priority on completion of the academic programme.


A statement released by the country’s university sports governing body USSA (University Sport South Africa) confirmed that after considering all responses and possibilities after consultation with various stakeholders, member institutions and associations, the difficult decision was taken to abandon all USSA tournaments for 2020.

USSA president Ms Nomsa MahlanguUSSA president Ms Nomsa Mahlangu“Based on the feedback received and taking into consideration the National Government advice on the current covid-19 pandemic, the USSA National Executive Committee resolved that all tournaments scheduled for 2020 be cancelled,” the statement read.


The statement continued with the emphasis that “the well-being and safety of all students, university employees, and other support staff are of paramount importance”.


The announcement came soon after last month’s decision to suspend all competitions in the national Varsity Sport programme, a university tournament comprising of nine different sports played alongside the national USSA championships.


South Africa is yet to hit its peak in terms of new Coronavirus cases – the country has a total of over 32 000 reported COVID-19 cases and more than 650 deaths as of the beginning of June, with more than 1 000 new cases reported every day over the last week of May.


The country is gradually easing its restrictions according to the government’s phased out approach in an attempt to restore the economy, yet all tertiary education institutions remain shut down.


The fact that sports events countrywide are still prohibited – with no decision made yet by national authorities as to when they may return – further substantiated USSA’s decision to call off all university sport events for 2020, according to the association’s president Ms Nomsa Mahlangu.


South Africa RUgby Sevens female teamSouth African Rugby Sevens female university team“Sport is still not currently taking place in the country,” Ms Mahlangu told the national television news broadcaster SABC. “We looked at the fact that, even if we get to a stage where sport can be played, we cannot risk taking our students to play competitive sport because they would have been inactive for a long time which in itself will make them prone to injury.”


With the South African academic year running from February until November, priority is now being given to completing the academic programme, which is currently being undertaken online by students across the country.


“We are all affected by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Ms Mahlangu continued. “We obviously deal with student-athletes, and they are students before they are athletes, so we felt it necessary that we allow the 2020 academic programme to continue smoothly and give students an opportunity to just focus on their academics because its important that the academic programme gets completed successfully.”


With many student-athletes currently on sports scholarships, Ms Mahlangu urged individual institutions and universities to honour these contracts despite the cancellation of all university sports events.


According to the USSA statement, the association will now continue their work with local federations to prepare for the return of competitive university sport in 2021.