REVEALED: The Boks' Rugby Championship alternative
SPOTLIGHT: South African Rugby is in a race against time to come up with some answers for their SANZAAR partners.
The world champions Springboks, through SA Rugby, have been given a 48-hour deadline to confirm their participation in the upcoming four-nation Rugby Championship in Australia.
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 due to the Springboks’ delayed arrival in Australia and quarantine requirements.
Media reports Down Under suggest the World Cup winners, the Boks, could even be withdrawn from the first three rounds.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.
SA Rugby said last weekend that “several hurdles” needed to be cleared before they could confirm the Springboks’ inclusion and that they hoped to make a decision early this week.
“The SANZAAR member unions have agreed to provide South Africa Rugby with an additional 48 hours to finalise its internal stakeholder discussions,” SANZAAR said in a statement on Wednesday.
“This will now delay the scheduled departure of the Springboks from South Africa to Australia.
“SANZAAR will provide an update on the resolution of these discussions and a timetable for the Springboks participation in the Rugby Championship when available in the coming days.”
(Continue below …)
SA Rugby has continuously suggested that the competition may be a step too far for the Springboks.
While the All Blacks and Wallabies will have had plenty of rugby under their belts by the time the Rugby Championship kicks off, thanks to their local Super Rugby iterations as well as the two Bledisloe Cup games in New Zealand, South Africa’s top players have only featured in two matches – a pre-season outing and one round of revamped domestic competition, Super Rugby Unlocked.
What is worse is that the Stormers, who provide a sizable chunk of the Boks squad, had a bye in round one.
Their players include Bok skipper Siyamthanda Kolisi, along with the likes of Herschel Jantjies, Steven Kitshoff and Frans Malherbe.
It’s a similar story for the Pumas, with the Argentinians yet to play a first-class fixture since the resumption of their season.
Argentina, however, has already made the trip to Australia while the Springboks have not left home.
South Africa’s partial withdrawal will cost SA Rugby many millions in lost revenue, while the other three SANZAAR nations will also take a sizeable hit.
Australia media suggested a conservative estimate is that withdrawal will cost SA Rugby AU$10-million (about ZAR119-million).
Whatever form the competition takes in 2020, broadcast rights will need to be re-negotiated as a four-team, six-round competition was initially signed off on.
One possible option is adding an additional team from Australia or Oceania to the competition.
Former World Cup-winning Springbok coach Jake White, currently coaching the Bulls in the South African domestic competition, has previously said he didn’t think the team would be ready for the Rugby Championship.
“I understand fully that it’s not the ideal preparation and, probably, if I was a coach I’d be asking SA Rugby to try and find ways in which we don’t participate because the situation is a bit unfair,” White said after the Bulls game in Pretoria.
Even if South Africa do join the competition from the outset, the delay in their travel to Australia will almost certainly lead to re-scheduling of their opening match Argentina.
Source: AAP, RugbyPass & The Telegraph