SA Rugby president Mark Alexander says the organisation's rights partners will not be as "sympathetic" in 2021 as they were in 2020, which means that they need rugby played in order to spend money on the product.
With the coronavirus crisis reaching its peak in 2020 SA Rugby was forced to implement pay cuts across the board and, in the absence of any competitive action, rights partners like SuperSport and other sponsors and investors had to be patient.
But, speaking in his presidential report in SA Rugby's latest published annual report, Alexander said that 2021 would pose a different set of challenges if rugby was not played.
The Springboks have still not played a Test match since the 2019 World Cup final but are set to return to action for two Tests against Georgia in June and then the highly-anticipated British & Irish Lions series to follow.
But with South Africa expected to be hit by a third wave of the coronavirus pandemic, there remains an element of uncertainty surrounding the Lions tour.
Meanwhile, South Africa's four premier franchises - the Sharks, Stormers, Lions and Bulls - were due to be competing against European clubs in the PRO14 Rainbow Cup presently, but that competition has been severely diluted given that the SA sides have not been able to travel abroad.
It places even more emphasis on the Lions taking place.
"Last year, the rugby industry had to join hands to navigate the crises and the CEO and his team did a fantastic job securing some of the funding from the sponsors and broadcasters, considering the non-delivery of the rights sold," Alexander said.
"Unfortunately, this year our rights partners are not as generous and sympathetic as last year, and funds for the rights will be directly linked to rights delivery. If there is no play, there is no payment.
"Springbok and international franchise activities are responsible for 82% of all our broadcast and sponsor income.
"If we don't participate in these events, our revenue, budget and distribution are severely impacted, which in turn affects rugby as a whole, as well as all our projects, competitions and unions."