Mitch: Add Boks for ‘7 Nations’

2014-11-11 00:00

CAPE TOWN — South Africa meet England for the first time in two years in a suddenly critical Test match at Twickenham on Saturday, but respected New Zealand-born critic and coach John Mitchell advocates more regular, guaranteed annual clashes between the two in a reworked Six Nations.

The Springboks tackle their old enemies while reeling to some extent from an unexpected 29-15 defeat to Ireland in Dublin, in the first game of their four-match Northern Hemisphere agenda, while the hosts also enter the fixture on the back foot, having been beaten at home by the world champions the All Blacks rather more convincingly than the 24-21 scoreline suggests.

At least the Boks boast bragging rights from the last encounter with England at the same venue two years ago, when they squeezed out a 16-15 result in their favour. This weekend’s game may well be just as close and difficult to tip.

But SA-based former All Blacks and Golden Lions coach Mitchell, writing in his new book Mitch: The Real Story (with Gavin Rich), says it makes sense for yearly meetings at the very least, with the Boks infused to the Six Nations competition as the seventh element. “Many people in the game favour the inception of a global season, and I am one of them,” the SuperSport analyst writes.

“But the only way I can see that occurring is when — and note, I say ‘when’ and not ‘if’ — the Springboks and Saru decide to play in what will become the Seven Nations.

“The broadcasters will make sure this happens, as will the players, as their piece of the revenue pie will get even bigger when it does. South Africa is in the same time zone as the northern hemisphere rugby nations, and there are already 250 South African players playing there. That is more than six full rugby squads.”

Mitchell says a global season would be favourable for fans. “They would be able to enjoy a world club championship played in conferences drawn out of the hat before each season.”

• Mitch: The Real Story (Zebra Press) is at leading bookstores and makes good Christmas stocking fare for rugby enthusiasts.

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