- SA's PRO16 franchises are bracing themselves for another local competition as doubts over the Rainbow Cup persist.
- British government restrictions are the major stumbling blocks for SA teams' participation in what would be a 'massive setback' for the local game.
- But SA Rugby insists that the planning is going ahead as per normal.
South Africa's franchises are seemingly bracing themselves for another financially unfulfilling local series as doubts over the Rainbow Cup continue to swirl.
Several insiders have confirmed to Sport24 that British rugby authorities are wary of continued government restrictions preventing the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers crossing their borders due to Covid-19 fears related to South Africa's variant strain.
Scotland insists on a 10-day quarantine period for overseas visitors, while South Africa is still on Wales' so-called red list of countries not allowed entry.
One administrator labelled the potential ramifications of local teams missing out on the tournament as "a massive setback".
Should SA Rugby's worst-case scenario come to pass, it's understood that a Franchise Cup, featuring all eight teams from the recently concluded preparation series, will kick off as early as 24 April.
That Saturday date is currently still earmarked as the first round for the Rainbow Cup, with the Cheetahs, Pumas, Griquas and EP Elephants participating in a Toyota Cup that commences on 8 May.
Sport24 has learnt that the four non-PRO Rugby teams have no clarity yet on their alternative tournament.
Meanwhile, SA Rugby, who are understandably locked in various meetings to salvage the local rugby calendar, insist that their planning is going ahead as per normal.
"The PRO Rugby Board meeting where decisions are taken is only scheduled for later this month. In the meantime, we're going full steam ahead with planning to get our four SA teams into the UK," a SA Rugby spokesperson said.
"We're also still waiting on final answers from the different medical committees regarding the relevant protocols, and only after that can a final decision be made."
That all-important board meeting will reportedly take place essentially when the Rainbow Cup kicks off, rendering the timing inconvenient.
However, Ireland's The42 reported on Monday that such a time frame might still be palatable because the first three rounds of the tournament are local derbies.
That would give administrators at least a few more weeks to iron out the logistical details of South African teams' potential travel plans.