Holders South Africa pull out of Rugby Championship

Tanya Simon
October 16, 2020

World Cup winners South Africa have withdrawn from the Rugby Championship, leaving Argentina, Australia and New Zealand to contest the tournament.

SANZAAR and its stakeholders realise how hard this season has been due to the pandemic and it is an achievement in itself to get to a point where six global matches will be played in Australia across six consecutive weekends.

The world champions' place in the four-nation tournament was in question because of uncertainty over government restrictions on worldwide travel and, more importantly, a lack of game time for them due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It follows a report in the New Zealand Herald suggesting they have already given notice of their intention to withdraw.

South Africa Rugby Union was given a 48 hour extension on Wednesday to make a decision regarding their participation in the tournament, and released an update early Friday morning Sydney time following reports they would be abandoning the competition.

The scheduled departure of the Springboks from South Africa to Australia is now being delayed pending the decision.

The pull-out by the defending champions also prompted speculation about future editions of the Rugby Championship, after South Africa walked away from the southern hemisphere's provincial-level Super Rugby last month in favour of Europe's PRO14.

"Players in England, Ireland, France and Japan are subject to differing local regulations and travel protocols and potentially imminent renewed lockdowns in some territories", he said.

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"The impact on our planning was profound and took us to a bottom line that we could not in fairness commit to being able to compete", he added.

"We worked out that the players needed a minimum of 400 minutes of game-time before they could be ready for a test match", director of rugby Rassie Erasmus said in a statement. The rebranded Tri-Nations tournament will also likely hit broadcasting revenue, which will be shared among the three competing teams.

Top of the list of concerns was a lack of game-time for players, with the South African domestic season only kicking off this past weekend after 29 weeks without competitive action.

Wallabies coach Dave Rennie said the Springboks' absence was disappointing for the Rugby Championship, and for his players.

"The disappointing thing was that they couldn't get their Currie Cup going quick enough", he said.

After this weekend's second Bledisloe Cup test at Eden Park, the All Blacks will head to Australia to play the Wallabies on October 31st in Sydney and then a week later in Brisbane.

With COVID-19 still affecting worldwide travel, South African officials made the call to withdraw themselves from the tournament beginning on October 31.

"It seems impossible that the Springboks won't play a test match in 2020, but public health and safety have been the primary concern and we have been collateral damage like so many businesses".

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