The rumours of the possible Springboks Rugby Championship exit has had rugby supporters around the world watching with keen interest to see what would eventually transpire. Would they or wouldn’t they?
Springboks Rugby Championship withdrawal
Back in August, Ryan Jordan was sceptical that the Springboks Rugby Championship defence would happen. Some of the circumstances have changed since then, such as the host country. However, the lack of game time was always going to make their participation unlikely.
Player safety vs financial gain
Much of the discussion was around the fact that the Springboks “must” compete in the Rugby Championship due to the financial impact. A figure of around R110 million has been bandied about. That cash injection cannot be ignored when budgets are being slashed in response to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. What can also not be ignored is player safety and preparedness. Pitching up is one thing. Sending players into the Test arena who have played one game on Super Hero Saturday, possibly an appearance in the Springboks Green vs Gold schoolyard pick game and one appearance in the Vodacom Super Rugby unlocked competition would have been irresponsible. None of the locally-based players would be close to being ready for this level of competition.
The future of the Rugby Championship
SANZAAR have been keen to put forward a unified front. The message has been that the Rugby Championship will continue despite the Super Rugby divorce that soured the strong Southern Hemisphere alliance. That sounds plausible until we consider the impact of South Africa moving to Northern Hemisphere competitions. South Africa and Argentina have always been compromised in the Rugby Championship as they have large numbers of players competing offshore.
<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Massive blow for the sport and for all the unions involved. <a href=”https://t.co/K0oDZKt89E”>https://t.co/K0oDZKt89E</a></p>— Scotty Stevenson (@sumostevenson) <a href=”https://twitter.com/sumostevenson/status/1316807404034510849?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>October 15, 2020</a></blockquote> <script async src=”https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″></script>
The Rugby Championship has always taken place outside of international Test windows. If South African teams are competing in the Northern Hemisphere, none of their players are likely to be available for selection to compete in the Rugby Championship unless the competition is moved into the mid-year Test window. SANZAAR may choose to ignore this for now, but this fact, along with the fact that SA Rugby has chosen to look after their players ahead of SANZAAR’s needs is telling.
Where to from here?
Only time will tell what happens from here, but one thing we can take for granted. The international rugby calendar will look very different in 2021. Competitions that have been the same year in, year out are likely to have new competitors. New competitions are likely to be created for teams that have been marginalized.
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