Springboks

Dilemma for Springboks as Rugby Championship decision looms

0:00
play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
All Blacks v Springboks (Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)
All Blacks v Springboks (Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)

The Springboks were included in the 2020 Rugby Championship fixtures released on Thursday, but the world champions have several hurdles to clear before they can take part.

First, the government must lift a ban on teams from the republic competing internationally, which was introduced early this year when the coronavirus pandemic spread to southern Africa.

Then, SA Rugby officials must convince national coach Jacques Nienaber to change his stance on how many matches a player must participate in before being ready for international duty.

"If we cannot play six (domestic) matches, then I do not think we will go (to the Rugby Championship). Player well-being risks would just be too great," the coach said.

Should South Africa compete in the tournament from 7 November against hosts Australia, New Zealand and Argentina, they will do so without local-based stars meeting the six-match target.

A season halted in March by Covid-19 restarts on Saturday with two matches in Pretoria between the South African Super Rugby sides, the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers.

Cape Town hosts a Springbok trial a week later, then on 10 October a Super Rugby Unlocked competition involving the 'big four' plus the Cheetahs, Griquas and Pumas kicks off.

Even if the Springboks can delay their departure until after the third round over the weekend of 23/24 October, home-based players will have played a maximum of five games.

While South African stars have been restricted to training, much of it non-contact, since the March shutdown, New Zealand and Australia staged domestic competitions.

The All Blacks and Wallabies will also benefit from two Bledisloe Cup internationals before the Rugby Championships kicks off.

'Financial considerations'

"If Jacques and (director of rugby) Rassie (Erasmus) had their way, the Springboks probably would not go to the Rugby Championship this year," a senior rugby official told AFP.

"Jurie (Roux, the SA Rugby chief executive) and other officials are aware of the risks in sending an under-prepared team, but financial considerations have to be taken into account."

SA Rugby sustained losses in 2016 and 2017, made small profits in the next two years, then slashed R1.2 billion off the 2020 budget due to the pandemic.

Roux acknowledged the difficult decision that must be made, saying "ultimately it will be a rugby decision... but there is an economic imperative."

While South Africa celebrated the World Cup triumph, memories remain fresh of the Springboks conceding 57 points in successive matches against New Zealand a few years ago.

Former Springbok captain Wynand Claassen says "SA Rugby must take a stand and decide what is in the best interests of the national team.

"Yes, money talks, but it is not all about money. I believe we should forget about the Rugby Championship this year," he told Johannesburg daily The Citizen.

Author and respected Business Day columnist Gavin Rich has argued for several months against competing in the four-nation competition.

"Going to the Championship with players who have played just a few games will leave them vulnerable to the kind of beatings suffered against New Zealand a few seasons ago.

"Heavy losses could undermine much of the progress that has been made in rebuilding the Springbok aura by winning the World Cup."

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
What is your favourite sport to watch on TV?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Rugby
42% - 8998 votes
Cricket
11% - 2334 votes
Football
19% - 4106 votes
Athletics
2% - 530 votes
Boxing
1% - 191 votes
Cycling
2% - 499 votes
Golf
5% - 1046 votes
Motorsport
9% - 1822 votes
Tennis
3% - 731 votes
Water sports
1% - 198 votes
American sports
1% - 268 votes
MMA / WWE / UFC
3% - 681 votes
Vote