DHL Stormers adapting to unique COVID-19 challenges

PUBLISHED: March 18, 2020

The DHL Stormers have adapted their environment and training given the unique challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

With Vodacom Super Rugby having been suspended for the foreseeable future and a state of national disaster declared by President Cyril Ramaphosa, the DHL Stormers have had to make some changes to ensure the wellbeing of players and staff.

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Given the suspension of the 2020 Vodacom Super Rugby season, the squad has been given this week off, but will continue to train in small groups in a carefully controlled environment from next week.

This means that while there will be no team meetings or team training sessions, the players will continue to work in the gym and on improving their individual skills to ensure their readiness for when the competition does resume.

Head Coach John Dobson explained that an adapted training schedule has been developed to ensure that the players can use the time during the competition suspension constructively.

“There’s no team training or meetings at the moment, but the guys can do individual work. We’ll gym in small pods. We won’t have the whole squad in there at a stretch. The guys will go on to the field almost individually. They can catch high balls or do defensive tracking, with a coach standing a few metres away.

They will still be working. These guys have to stay conditioned for when the call to action comes,” he said.

Team doctor Jason Suter said that strict testing, monitoring and hygiene protocols have been put in place at the team’s High Performance Centre, which is the safest place for the players as a highly-controlled environment.

“We’ve been provided with stringent guidelines around social distancing, however, you’ve got to look at it in the sense that the HPC is a safer environment than what the players may experience in the outside world.

“We have changed the way we do things here in terms of our gym and hygiene guidelines to be cognisant of the fact that we are dealing with something that’s potentially contagious. Keeping the guys at the HPC also allows us to self-monitor,” he said.

In terms of testing and isolating potential cases of COVID-19, Suter explained that the guidelines are clear, should a potential case be identified.

“By testing them daily, we can also keep an eye on what’s happening to them outside of this environment. That’s where the main risk is.

“If they’ve got a snotty nose, a temperature and some symptoms, and if we’re not sure whether it’s a cough, cold, flu or COVID-19, they will be regarded as positive until proven otherwise,” he said.

“We have set aside an isolation room. The individual will be given a mask and we will take appropriate precautions as the medical staff.

“I will then take the required swabs. Then we will send them home to self-isolate. These are protocols that are being followed by the World Health Organisation,” he said.

Players or staff showing symptoms will be sent for testing before coming into contact with anyone else.

“There is a list of symptoms and if they have two or more, they will be regarded as a suspected Covid-19 case and they will be sent directly to the drive-through pathology centre for a swab,’ he said.

“That way there is no contact with anyone here at the HPC. The individual will then go back into self-isolation.

“If there is a positive result, we will manage it appropriately,” said the DHL Stormers doctor.