Rassie reveals SA Rugby's Euro ambitions
INTERVIEW: It may not be via the Rainbow Cup, but playing in Europe’s Champions Cup remains a goal for South African teams.
The Bulls, Sharks, Stormers and Lions will make their European debuts when the Rainbow Cup gets underway later this month.
However, it is in Europe’s premier competition, the Champions Cup, where they desire to make their mark.
The London-based Sunday Times suggested in a recent report that the leading SA teams from the Rainbow Cup might be given a pathway to the big league.
However, it is the Pro16 – which will get underway later this year – the is the real pathway.
South Africa’s Director of R Rassie Erasmus said the desire to feature in the Champions Cup and secondary Challenge remains high.
“It is definitely the ambition,” Erasmus told the Irish Independent.
“I’m not sure what the decision-makers think about that and if and when they will do that, but certainly, we would try to get our franchise teams to the highest level.
“However, the first step is obviously to try and be competitive in the Pro16.”
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Erasmus also spoke about the number of frontline South African players being signed up by European teams.
Munster announced that one-cap Springbok Jason Jenkins would be joining the Irish province on a one-year deal – following the departure of Billy Holland and retirement of Christiaan Stander.
Erasmus, who coached the Limerick-based outfit for just over a year, understands why there are concerns within Ireland over the signing of foreign players.
“Look, for South Africa, it’s great because he [Jenkins] is in a great high-performance program,” the SA Rugby boss told the Irish Independent.
“They [Munster] are paying his salary and he can play [international rugby] for us,” he added.
“It’s about balance and I think David Nucifora [Irish Rugby Football Union Performance Director] is very much on top of it.
“There are eight locks, so let’s say four are foreign, now Andy [Farrell] might only have four to pick from.
“Of course Ireland doesn’t have a lot of rugby players. If there are 160 or 180 professionals and that foreign-based number becomes big, I don’t think it’s bad for the club, but I think it might be for the national cause – it might not be great.”
* Meanwhile, Erasmus confirmed that the Springboks have finalised their plans for the British and Irish Lions tour, which will take place as originally scheduled in July and August.
“If it is going to be behind closed doors, what we can and can’t do will probably be guided by the government and we will follow that strictly,” Erasmus added.
“But we are fully preparing to play them here now.”
Source: Irish Independent