The world champions South Africa surprised many last month when they announced their decision to withdraw from what would’ve been the Rugby Championship. Instead, Argentina, New Zealand and hosts Australia would contest for a Tri Nations title.
It was revealed that the Springboks wouldn’t travel to Australia due to challenges with COVID-19, with player welfare one of the reasons cited.
Another issue was the lack of game time that players had had, with players only having played a few weeks of Super Rugby Unlocked, the South African domestic competition for this year, at that stage. The national side also hadn’t played together since the World Cup final in November last year.
Director of rugby Rassie Erasmus, who was head coach of the Springboks for last year’s World Cup victory in Japan, said that his players would need 400-500 minutes of game time before they’d be ready for test match rugby.
The decision was at least initially labelled a “great call” by South African fans on Twitter, with the Springboks set to take on the British and Irish Lions in South Africa next year.
Great call, rather focus on Lions tour next year and make it count.
— Pieter Groenewald ?? (@pieterg100) October 16, 2020
Player welfare > money. Nice to see.
— Timothy Johnston (@tithij) October 16, 2020
The correct call SARU. We cannot risk our brand by sending a under prepared squad to a tournament. When we play we need to play to win every single game.
— jacques (@jacque0001) October 16, 2020
However the decision has since come under scrutiny with the Pumas, who were in a similar boat to the Springboks, having registered an historic 25-15 win over the All Blacks last Saturday.
All Blacks legend Sir John Kirwan joked about the “mitigating circumstances” that the Argentinians had faced in preparation for the Tri Nations, with COVID-19 having impacted them significantly. In late September, it was reported that more than a dozen players had tested positive for the virus.
The squad arrived in Australia on 6th October after having quarantined for 14 days.
The Pumas then played two warm-up matches against a Rugby Australia XV, which included non-matchday Wallabies. Pete Samu, Joe Powell and James Ramm all featured, but the visitors won both matches in convincing fashion.
But the dominant performance against the All Blacks last weekend was particularly impressive, and has seen fans on Twitter discuss the Springboks withdrawal just as much as the win itself.
— Jamie Spragg (@jamiespragg) November 14, 2020
Argentina’s performance today makes a mockery of the Springboks not wanting to travel for the The Rugby Championship because they haven’t played since the world cup. #NZLvARG
— Mark Gottlieb (@MarkGottlieb) November 14, 2020
The Argentina team had not played together in more than 400 days; they were every bit as underprepared as the Springboks, but they turned up and defeated New Zealand.
Hats off to Los Pumas ??
— NeilHendry (@NeilHendry6) November 14, 2020
Springboks reverse decision on playing in Rugby Championship following Argentina’s shock win over NZ
Rassie: “Clearly we were wrong about how many minutes you need to play before you can beat the All Blacks” https://t.co/9tuef5MiqD
— The African Bee (@bee_african) November 14, 2020
Watching this begs the question – if @lospumas could beat the All Blacks with this kind of preparation – why couldn’t the @Springboks at least try and do the same? #VamosLosPumas https://t.co/ECyt5lUI4z
— Rupert Cox (@RupertCoxTV) November 15, 2020
Springboks: Our athletes need 400, 500 minutes to be competitive.
— Paul Cully (@paulcullystuff) November 14, 2020
And I think the Springboks were cowards to refuse to play in the Southern Hemisphere tournament. Their excuse that they hadn’t played a test since the World Cup was hollow. Neither had the Pumas, and they have taken the All Blacks to the cleaners.
— Wallace Kantai (@wgkantai) November 14, 2020
Pumas playing great footy. Same disadvantage of lack of game time as the Springboks but showing up non the less! #TriNations2020
— Quinton Louw (@Quinlouw1) November 14, 2020
I understand worries about protecting the health of @sarugby players is a quite correct reason for @Springboks to withdraw from the #RugbyChampionship – however, the Pumas have destroyed the argument that they should have withdrawn due to a lack of preparation.#ARGvNZ #ARGvNZL
— Mark Sutton (@MarkSutton3110) November 14, 2020
I am wondering what is SARU thinking now? As the Pumas did not play any rugby but they have won the All Blacks. Or is it a case of the Pumas had nothing to loose & Springboks had everything to loose because they are the world champions?
— Talker Boost (@talker_boost) November 14, 2020
Can someone tell me why the @Springboks didn’t come? This Pumas win puts the Boks lack of ticker in perspective.
— Rugby and stuff… (@IBloodyLuvRugby) November 14, 2020
— Quintin Rogers (@qarogers) November 14, 2020
But other fans have been quick to diminish any comparisons between the Pumas and the Springboks, two sides who faced similar yet different challenges.
I just don’t get why Springboks were even drawn into the Argentine’s glorius win-it’s a non sequitur to be honest. I think folks should let the Pumas enjoy their hard earned time in the sun.
— mphathi (@mphathinxumalo) November 14, 2020
Whether you agree with the @Springboks decision not to go to Rugby Champs or not, it was based on science. Argentina were brilliant, but their performance has nothing to do with the World Champs. Simple really. Nothing at all.
— Brenden Nel (@BrendenNel) November 14, 2020
The unique Super Rugby Unlocked season does continue this weekend, with the final round of fixtures set to be played. The competition is set to go down to the wire, with the Bulls currently sitting atop of the standings.
As for the Argentinian national side, they’ll face the Wallabies in Newcastle this weekend, in a pivotal Tri Nations clash.
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