Springboks face a tough decision to move North or stay South!

By Maxwell Levine

The Springboks face a predicament: whether to play in the Eight Nations European tournament or the Rugby Championship in the Southern Hemisphere.

It appeared all set that the Boks would participate in the Rugby Championship in New Zealand later this year, as widely reported by SANZAAR and SA Rugby.

This flagship tournament, that includes South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Argentina, is set to take place from 7 November to 12 December.

Then Bernard Laporte, the French Rugby Federation president, threw a spanner in the works when he confirmed that the Six Nations were in advanced talks with SA Rugby about the Boks joining an eight-team European-based tournament scheduled to take place from the 14 November to 5 December. Japan had withdrawn from the tournament due to the coronavirus pandemic.

There are several permutations to consider.

Firstly, New Zealand have made it perfectly clear that they will embark on their own Super Rugby competition from 2021 and beyond that will exclude South Africa.

That was followed by Rugby Australia two proposals with a fully-fledged trans-Tasman Super Rugby tournament with New Zealand and a Pacific Island nation or go on their own if not all their franchises are accommodated in the trans-Tasman competition.

SA Rugby have recently announced an expanded Currie Cup competition that will include the Lions, Sharks, Stormers, Bulls, Griquas, Cheetahs and Pumas to salvage some much-needed rugby for 2020.

SA Rugby have also indicated they intend to join the Guinness Pro 16, which is a clear indication that the end of Super Rugby is in sight.

South Africa’s domestic tournament is expected to kick-off on the weekend of 25-27 September or the first weekend of October.

If that is the case, that would allow the locally based Boks to play in four rounds of matches before leaving for New Zealand where they are expected to go into quarantine for two weeks upon arrival.

The Eight Nations will kick-off a week later than the Rugby Championship, which will be of an advantage to the local Boks, as they will play a further week in the domestic competition which could prove crucial to get them match fit and battle-ready for the Test matches.

If SA Rugby decide to play in the Eight Nations, South Africa will be in Pool 2 and face France, Scotland and Italy.

Pool 1 will be contested by England, Wales, Ireland and Fiji.

The top team in each pool will contest the final at Twickenham on 5 December, with the other teams also playing a fourth match.

Playing up North will be of greater advantage for the Springboks, considering most of their overseas based players are based in Europe.

The Boks based in England have been active in the Premiership since mid-August and those playing in France are set to return to action in the Top 14 this weekend.

Travelling will be much easier for the locally based Springboks to Europe than to travel across the globe to New Zealand, and they will easily link up with the European-based players.

New Zealand and Australia will also have a massive advantage, having played in the Super Rugby Aotearoa and the Super Rugby AU competition.

The All Blacks would also have played Australia twice and will be battle-hardened.

It will be easier for the Boks to come up against teams like France, Scotland and Italy.

The sensible thing is for SA Rugby to consider the option of the Eight Nations later this year.

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