SA Rugby's Under-20 competition takes prominence as seniors' return to play uncertain

Rugby ball (Getty Images)
Rugby ball (Getty Images)
  • Small unions were reported to be opting out of a return to play in 2020 due to poor finances - but this has been refuted.
  • SA Rugby will launch a 2021 Under-20 competition to serve as trials for the Junior Springboks for next year's World Rugby Under-20 Championship.
  • Valke's Rudy Joubert says competitions later this year will send them into contracting chaos if they overlap with expiring player terms in October.

The uncertainty regarding when rugby will return to the field, due to the Covid-19 surge the country's experiencing, has forced some unions to look to next year's SA Under-20 Championship from which to build.

Small unions, such as Border, Boland, Valke, SWD and Eastern Province, are apparently reluctant to return to play when the government gives SA Rugby the full green light because of the financial impact on their strained books.

But, according to Valke director of rugby Rudy Joubert, other factors in their decision-making include the fact that most rugby contracts expire in October and, if competitions aren't concluded by then, it could render them into chaos.

"We are all waiting for SA Rugby to tell us when we'll be allowed to start training again, but there is no formal decision made on that yet.

"It's not entirely true that we don't want to play. Our players have been contracted till the end of September. If the competition carries on beyond that, it will create a lot of logistical problems because of contract expiring. It's gonna create a lot of chaos."

The Border Bulldogs, who are still under SA Rugby administration, faced a couple of seasons of chaos - even before Covid-19 struck.

Things were so bad in East London at some point that they could no longer lease their office space nor utilise the municipal facilities at their home ground, Buffalo City Stadium, because of unpaid tenant fees to the municipality.

Despite being a union that heavily influenced the Springbok World Cup-winning Springbok squad – in producing Makazole Mapimpi, Lukhanyo Am and analyst Lindsay Weyer – they have been somewhat of a non-entity in the past couple of seasons.

Administrators within its governing clubs want to change that and make Border competitive again, starting with the mooted Under-20 Championship.

SA Rugby high performance manager Louis Koen revealed recently that next year's Under-20 Championship would involve all unions under their umbrella, with the Under-19 and Under-21 tournaments being done away with.

The Under-20 Championship will also serve as trials for the Junior Springbok team that will do battle in next year's Junior World Cup.

"I want us to be on time and be in step with the other unions and be ready for that next year," a Border administrator said.

"We've got the boys and we are driving that we should become competitive and not just make numbers."

Border also believe that finances weren't as big to their decision as reported.

"There was just an indication from some unions that, in the light of all this uncertainty, we should perhaps forego senior competitions for non-franchise unions or First Division unions," the administrator told Sport24.

"No one knows when we are gonna play. By the time we even get any sort of rugby playing, there will probably be no time for the Currie Cup Premier and First Division to be played, as well as a truncated Super Rugby competition.

"If it happens, it will have to be at the end of the year.

"But all these things are in the air. The money fact is part of it, but it's not the crux of it.

"Instead of getting the lockdown lifted, we are seeing a surge."

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