Australia’s grand plans to stage the upcoming Rugby Championship face an anxious wait following fresh speculation South Africa is considering pulling out of the four-nation tournament.
SA Rugby has still not made a formal announcement on whether they will defend the title they won last year but released a statement over the weekend saying a decision was imminent.
“The Springboks ability to participate in the Rugby Championship would be finalised early next week,” the statement said.
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“But several hurdles needed to be cleared if it’s to be confirmed.”
Neither Rugby Australia or SANZAAR, which oversees the tournament, have been notified that the Springboks are considering withdrawing so expect they will participate as planned, once they get approval from the South African government.
The concern for the Springboks is they have not played a match since beating England in last year’s World Cup final in Japan and their best players have only just resumed playing after the pandemic lockdown.
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That has left the world champions at a distinct disadvantage heading into a tournament against the Wallabies, All Blacks and Pumas, who have already arrived in Australia to prepare for the championships, which will run from October 31-December 12.
Overseas reports suggest Springboks director of rugby Rassie Erasmus wants to forfeit the championship, citing “player welfare” but it is understood SA Rugby would incur a massive financial hit that would threaten to send the organisation broke, leading to conjecture that the Springboks would instead send a development squad to fulfil their broadcast and sponsor obligations.
“I also fully understand that there are other things that come into play,” the Springboks’ 2007 World Cup winning coach Jake White said.
“We are the current holders of the title and there is the matter of television rights.
“If you’re sitting in the boardroom and you’re doing the sums you have a perception of what should happen and if you’re a coach you have another. It’s a difficult decision to make.”
New Zealand coach Ian Foster said he hopes the Springboks play.
“We would love to have them there,” he said.
“Quality people, quality team. They would be fantastic for what is cooking ahead. We know the challenges they have been through … but it would be great to play against them on the park.”