Women's RWC likely to be postponed, SA Rugby says call is 'understandable and sensible'

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World Rugby (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
World Rugby (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

SA Rugby has responded to World Rugby's decision to recommend the postponement of the 2021 women's Rugby World Cup to next year.

In a statement released on Wednesday, SA Rugby said that while it was disappointing for the Springbok Women's team, it was "understandable and sensible".

World Rugby announced late on Tuesday that it had made the difficult decision to recommend the postponement of the women's Rugby World Cup, which was scheduled to be hosted in New Zealand between 18 September and 16 October, until next year due to the evolution of "the uncertain and challenging global Covid-19 landscape".

The recommendation will be considered by the Rugby World Cup Board and World Rugby Executive Committee early next week.

"I share Springbok Women's coach Stanley Raubenheimer and the team's disappointment, especially after all the hard work they have been putting in since last year in preparation for the tournament," said SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux.

"But that said, the Rugby World Cup is the biggest stage in rugby and in order for such a tournament to live to up to its billing, it is essential that the correct structures are in place for all the teams to perform to the best of their abilities.

"Since this is not possible due to the challenges presented by the fluid nature of the Covid-19 pandemic, we understand the decision to recommend the postponement of the event."

Raubenheimer adopted a logical view to the decision and said: "The key aspect is not that we are disappointed, it is the fact that that the health and safety of everyone concerned is more important.

"We would have been very disappointed if the Rugby World Cup was cancelled, but this is just a postponement of the tournament."

SA Rugby High Performance Manager for Women's rugby, Lynne Cantwell, added: "While we are extremely disappointed in South Africa, we see the opportunity in allowing the Springbok Women more time to train and prepare in their present high performance set-up for the World Cup."

According to World Rugby's statement it had become clear in recent discussions with key partners including New Zealand Rugby, the New Zealand government and participating unions, that, given the scale of the event and the Covid-19-related uncertainties, it would not be possible to deliver the environment for all teams to be the best that they can be on the sport's greatest stage. 

The challenges included the uncertainty and ability for teams to prepare adequately for a Rugby World Cup tournament both before and on arrival in New Zealand and challenging global travel restrictions.

Raubenheimer immediately redirected his attention to forward planning and said: “It is a now a question of realigning our goals and setting a new timelines for ourselves going forward. We cannot wait for the new dates to be announced so that we know how to prepare."

He added: "In terms of time, is might not be a bad thing for us because as I have said previously, time was the one thing we couldn’t get, but needed, and we will now have more time in our preparation for the World Cup.

"This will give the players more time to play and really get to know what is expected of them from a physical and emotional perspective. I believe the right decision was made in the interests of everyone involved."

Cantwell said the Springbok Women's rugby programme would continue as planned this year, barring the RWC tournament, so that the players are able to enter the spectacle next year as well prepared as possible.

"We will look to play international friendlies this year once the restrictions settle and we will use this time to create and start implementing broader plans to grow the women's game in South Africa," Cantwell said.

"The priority at this point is to support the head coach and his staff as they support the players after taking on the news, and no doubt it will take them a couple of days to process this before being able to take the next steps to move forward together."

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