Scottish tour: Springboks to need fresh ‘window’?

Jacques Nienaber (Getty Images)
Jacques Nienaber (Getty Images)

Whether Scotland will visit South Africa at all later in the year has been plunged into considerable new doubt ... and would probably require the opening of a new international window period for the tour to take place.

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Initially scheduled to tackle the World Cup-holding Springboks in a two-Test series in mid-winter - including a fitting major-rugby swansong for Newlands in the first clash on 4 July, and then a Kings Park tussle a week later - the more feasible likelihood is that, as already speculated, the Scots may instead come in October, after the 2020 Rugby Championship (August and September).

International rugby on our shores as early as July seems a long shot at present, given the enduring lockdowns here and abroad and a multitude of other matters related to the crippling global coronavirus crisis.

A third Test match initially planned for that period - against Georgia on 18 July - is tipped to fall away if the inbound clashes do get switched to October.

The entire international roster for the remainder of 2020 is up in the air, with World Rugby chairperson Bill Beaumont, who captained the 1980 British and Irish Lions in South Africa, even warning earlier this week of a “distinct possibility” of no Tests occurring at all.

On a slightly more upbeat note, the global body stated on its official website on Thursday: “In tandem with an extensive financial assessment, World Rugby, in full partnership with Six Nations, Sanzaar, unions (in consultation with their leagues) and International Rugby Players, continues to progress a variety of return-to-rugby plans, including the delivery of a viable 2020 international competition calendar subject to the relevant government and health authority advice. 

“This includes likely short-term reshaping of the international rugby calendar, optimising competition opportunities for unions and domestic leagues. As a prudent precaution, further scenario planning factors in a competition environment where cross-hemisphere travel might not be possible and, in the worst-case scenario, where no international rugby is possible this year.”

Under existing global arrangements, October would not normally be a period allowing for Test windows (where clubs/franchises are required to release relevant players from their professional clutches).

A conventional window is due again, after all, in November, when Springbok end-of-year-tour opponents in the northern hemisphere are scheduled to be Italy, Ireland, France and Wales.

This might give rise to speculation that SA Rugby would be open to the idea of Test activity against the Scots “out of the window” - something that has happened before.

It could, for example, mean the possibility of South Africa fielding an all home-based team against Scotland, who might similarly look “experimental” on paper if visiting here minus certain staple figures.

They have not played on SA soil since June 2014, when the Boks routed them 55-6 in Port Elizabeth, flyhalf Handre Pollard’s debut for the host nation.

But a senior source at SA Rugby headquarters indicated to Sport24 that changes to the roster are far likelier to occur by the book.

He said the year’s global Test rescheduling was being co-ordinated centrally, with World Rugby intimately involved and an “all in this together” spirit prevailing.    

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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