Kiwi media in a frenzy over Bok 'withdrawal'
RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP SPOTLIGHT: The New Zealand media has gone into speculation overdrive over South Africa’s participation in the SANZAAR championship.
The NZ Herald on Thursday stated ‘as fact’ that South Africa has withdrawn from the Rugby Championship.
The newspaper suggested tournament organiser SANZAAR and hosts Rugby Australia are expected to confirm the withdrawal of the world champion Springboks on Friday.
This will reduce the competition from a 12 to six-Test event and necessitate the need for bye weekends.
SA Rugby declined to comment on the reports, saying a statement will be issued on Friday.
Earlier this week SANZAAR gave South Africa Rugby a 48-hour deadline to confirm their participation in the four-nation event.
The tournament – which also includes Australia, New Zealand and Argentina – is scheduled to be staged in Australia from October 31.
Australia and New Zealand will open the tournament with their third Bledisloe Cup clash of the year on October 31 in Sydney.
South Africa are scheduled to play Argentina in their tournament opener in Brisbane on November 7, but that draw will likely need to be revised.
Earlier this week media reports Down Under suggest the World Cup winners, the Boks, could even be withdraw from the first three rounds.
That is one of the alternatives bandied about in the wake of confirmation that SA Rugby has till Friday to “finalise its internal stakeholder discussions”.
Speculation has been rife that South Africa won’t compete at all – given the ongoing concerns about the Springboks’ lack of preparation, with their players only just resuming domestic Super Rugby after a seven-month lay-off because of the COVID-19-enforced lockdown.
According to the Herald South Africa’s decision to ‘withdraw’ entirely is expected to be attributed to player welfare concerns and uncertainty surrounding government travel regulations amid the global COVID-19 pandemic.
South Africa’s top players have had very limited game time – a pre-season outing, a Springbok trial and one round of the new Super Rugby Unlocked domestic competition.
The Springboks, therefore, always felt significantly disadvantaged compared to New Zealand and Australia’s competitive domestic seasons and Bledisloe Test preparation.
Without the Springboks, the All Blacks are scheduled to meet the Wallabies in Sydney and Brisbane on October 31 and November 7 following Sunday’s Bledisloe Cup test at Eden Park.
After their November 7 test against the Wallabies, the All Blacks may then have a bye week, followed by two tests against the Pumas, before returning home for quarantine.
Source: NZ Herald