IT is now official that the World Cup champion Springboks will not be participating in this year’s planned Castle Lager Rugby Championships, with Sanzaar making the announcement on Friday that was inevitable for several weeks.
The four-nation Southern Hemisphere organisation has announced an old-style Tri-Nations, featuring three teams – New Zealand, Australia and Argentina – to replace the tournament that was scheduled to start on 7 November and feature 12 matches. The number of games has now been cut to 6, although it appears the duration of the competition will be the same.
The tournament organisers gave South Africa an additional 48 hours to confirm its intentions after a teleconference meeting of CEOs on Tuesday, but it was apparent even then that they were being hopeful.
It was obvious from what was being said by the Springbok coaches and players involved in the recent Green/Gold game at Newlands that the Championship wasn’t being prepared for. If the Boks were going to Australia, they would have had to leave this weekend and a squad would have had to be selected and prepared for departure.
SA Rugby cited welfare concerns because of the delayed start to the domestic season in South Africa and uncertainty over government travel restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with those concerns relating also to the situation currently in Europe, which is preparing and experiencing a second wave of the pandemic.
A sizeable proportion of the Springbok squad is based in Europe and the expatriate army would have had to be heavily relied on if the Boks did go to the Championship. Those players are much closer to the 400 t0 500 minutes of game-time that national director of rugby Rassie Erasmus and Bok coach Jacques Nienaber stated was the minimum for international competition.
It is understood that the potential ripple effects of the commercial blow that will be felt because of the decision led to some franchise and provincial union CEOs trying to pressurise SA Rugby to participate.
As Stormers coach John Dobson and his Bulls counterpart Jake White have both stated recently, it was not an easy decision to make as if you wear a coaches hat, going to Australia with so little game time under the belt is a non-starter, but from the administrators’ point of view, looking at the financial bottom line, the consequences of not going would have swayed them in the other direction.
But South African rugby has a long history of not putting the welfare, and the health and future of their primary assets first, and as a consequence, have at times compromised their own long term interests because of it. This time they have reversed that trend and most emphatically got it right. — SuperSport