Sport may be on hold across the globe, but there’s no question that the spirit of rugby remains strong, as many players, teams and organisations are focusing their time and efforts on responding to the current pandemic.
...and I’m proud to announce that this morning, the Kolisi Foundation delivered 1000 masks to the Neonatal Unit at Groote Schuur Hospital.— Siya Kolisi (@SiyaKolisi_Bear) April 10, 2020
The pictures speak for themselves
From fundraising challenges to fighting on the frontline, here are a small handful of those responses from the near countless that are underway worldwide:
Kolisi puts launch on fast-forward to support fightback
Rugby World Cup 2019 winning captain Siya Kolisi has accelerated the launch of his new initiative, the Kolisi Foundation, in order to aid South Africa’s fight against coronavirus.
Kolisi had originally laid plans for the foundation to begin work later this year, however, given the current situation, he has decided to take immediate action. In collaboration with a range of new partners, the Kolisi Foundation is now working to deliver vital supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE), such as gloves and masks, and hand sanitiser to hospitals in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, where the 28-year-old Springbok captain grew up.
Kolisi explained the decision in a recent Instagram post, saying: “Whilst the Kolisi Foundation was months from launching with different projects in mind, we couldn't ignore the seriousness of COVID-19 so began to focus our energy and resources on supporting our frontline workers – supplying sanitisers and reusable masks.”
In an interview with Sky Sports, Kolisi highlighted his desire to give back to his home country after the support he and his team received during Rugby World Cup 2019: "We were out there and could feel the support of the people behind us," he said. "That's why I think we fight and support as much as we can, because that's what was given to us – that support. And we try to give it back now to the people that needed the most."
International stars on the frontline
To help with responses to both the COVID-19 pandemic and the devastating Cyclone Harold, which recently caused widespread damage across the Pacific Islands, Fijian sevens and 15s players have taken their frontline roles full-time.
Sevens playmaker Livai Ikanikoda and wingers Alosio Naduva and Suliano Volivolituevei have been working for the police force to patrol areas and man the scores of checkpoints that have been set up around the country to limit local travel.
Soldier and sevens winger Aminiasi Tuimaba is part of the team clearing fallen trees and debris caused by Cyclone Harold, while RWC 2019 player and Fiji Drua captain, firefighter Mosese Voka, is working full-time as part of the National Fire Authority’s rescue service.
Elsewhere, in South Africa, Springbok Women’s vice-captain and firefighter Zinhle Ndawonde has shared a video (below) revealing her experiences on the country’s frontline against the COVID-19 pandemic. Ndawonde also uses the video to urge her fellow South Africans to adhere to the country’s latest safety measures and restrictions.
Ireland flanker Claire Molloy is also packing down on the frontline. A 69-cap international stalwart, Molloy’s time is currently being occupied by her other career: an A&E doctor at Cardiff’s University Hospital of Wales.
“It is reasonable to have a degree of fear,” said Molloy, speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live’s Rugby Union Weekly podcast. “Quite a few of our department have contracted it. It is a fear but we are going in a well prepared set up, respecting your personal protective equipment, wearing it properly and taking it off properly.
“It is about respecting virus, in the sense that if we do not our own row properly then we are at risk and putting others at risk.”
Some of Molloy’s fellow Six Nations contenders have also been called upon during the pandemic. A Welsh quartet of healthcare assistants Megan Webb and Paige Randall, physiotherapist Abbie Fleming and physiotherapist technician Angharad de Smet, who all made their international debuts in the 2019 November internationals, are now busy applying their skills to help the National Health Service (NHS) and COVID-19 patients.
Wales legends gear up
Like many other countries impacted by the coronavirus outbreak, Wales remains on full lockdown. But that hasn’t stopped former Wales captain, Ryan Jones, from clocking some serious miles in the name of charity – and all from home.
Over the past few weeks, Jones has thrown himself into several different fundraising challenges to raise money for the NHS staff in Wales battling the COVID-19 pandemic. Jones ran a full marathon in his garden; he launched ‘Ryan’s 100 for 100’, which involved 100 people each aiming to raise £100 by cycling 100 miles at home on a static bike; and now the former back-row has announced that he will be taking on his biggest challenge yet: running 100 miles on a treadmill in his kitchen.
Also donning his lycra at home for the NHS was Wales’ all-time leading try scorer and World Rugby Hall of Fame inductee Shane Williams. Riding alongside 2018 Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas, Williams set himself the daunting task of completing three 12-hour cycling shifts over three days – mirroring a typical NHS hospital shift to celebrate the hard work of frontline workers. On 21 April, Thomas’s sponsorship page – which Williams’s efforts contributed to – had raised more than £364,000.
But like his former team-mate Jones, Williams wasn’t satisfied with one monster fundraising effort. Starting on 22 April, the former winger will be cycling 774 miles – a distance representing the sum of the cycling events he was set to take part in before the crisis hit – in a week for charity.