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'It would be great': Etzebeth on Springboks joining the Six Nations

By Ned Lester
Eben Etzebeth wears an Italian jersey following the Springboks' match in Genoa. Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images

Springbok hardman Eben Etzebeth is on board with the idea of South Africa joining the Six Nations, so long as the international schedule still allows rivalries with the reigning champions’ other southern hemisphere opponents to continue.

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South Africa and New Zealand have one of rugby’s most storied rivalries with over 100 years of matches, while the Wallabies’ rivalry with the Boks goes back to 1933 and Argentina’s competitiveness in The Rugby Championship is at an all-time high. However, the friendlier timezones in Europe have drawn the South Africans away from their Pacific peers in Super Rugby and there is potential for the national side to prioritise the Northern hemisphere’s competition as well.

Etzebeth spoke to The Times this week and discussed the difficulties of playing on both the Northern Hemisphere’s domestic schedule and the southern hemisphere’s international schedule.

“I’ve never played in Durban when it’s this hot,” Etzebeth said. “When we played in Super Rugby, after the end-of-year tour – except the guys who play in Europe – we’d all come back and be on holiday for about six weeks. It’s something new.

“I would like the whole rugby schedule to be aligned, so we can manage players, play at the same time and rest at the same time. At the moment it’s a bit of a difficult situation to handle. It’s not the softest sport in the world. I think when you get an off week you appreciate it more now.”

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Talk of restructuring the domestic tournaments around the world to better suit an international season – as well as potentially including a global Club Championship – has been simmering for some time, but no tangible action has yet been taken.

Hypothetically, South Africa’s move to the Six Nations would leave the Pacific teams in a significantly weakened Rugby Championship competition, inevitably resulting in their unions pushing for change to ensure their national sides are pitted against the best teams annually, including South Africa – a desire shared by Etzebeth.

“I think it would be great being a part of that (the Six Nations),” Etzebeth continued. “It would mean the schedules will be a bit more aligned. I never want to move away from playing the All Blacks, Wallabies and Argentina, so as long as there’s still space to also play those matches.

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“So if we can keep those rivalries aligned it would be great for us, for rugby, and it would align the schedule for the best interests of the players. I don’t know where the game will go in the future, or where we will play in the future, but being part of the European schedule and the Champions Cup just makes sense.”

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