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Rassie Erasmus delivers final blow to the already damaged Rainbow Cup

By Liam Heagney

Trending on RugbyPass

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The maligned Rainbow Cup is facing a further bruising blow to its already damaged credibility after Rassie Erasmus confirmed that the South African qualifiers for the final due to be held in Treviso on June 19 will travel without any of the players chosen in the 46-strong Springboks squad announced on Saturday to host the Lions.    

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Having already scrapped the initially proposed three rounds of cross-hemisphere fixtures that would have seen the four South African franchises travel to Europe to take on the Guinness PRO14 teams, organisers sought to at least give the messed-up tournament a final that would see the winners of the local derby conference in South Africa travel to Italy to take on the winners of the European conference. 

The Bulls currently lead the standings from the second-place Sharks but they can be overtaken if they lose to their nearest rivals in Durban in next weekend’s final round. Qualification for the Sharks would be especially bad for the Rainbow Cup decider as Erasmus has included nine of their players in the Springboks squad and none would be allowed to travel to Europe. 

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The drawback would be less severe if the Bulls progressed as they have just four picks in the South African squad and one of them, Duane Vermeulen, wouldn’t be able to play anyway if permitted to travel as he has picked up a potentially serious ankle injury that is set to rule him out of the series versus the Lions. 

Erasmus explained the situation after he and Springboks head coach Jacques Nienaber had unveiled their squad, adding that none of the 46 picks were likely to play for their franchises either in their July games against the touring Lions. 

“It is not easy when you are a franchise coach and you know your Springboks players in this 46-man squad are not going to play for you in the Rainbow Cup final. Let’s say the Bulls or the Sharks play Benetton or Munster, they will play without the Springboks. They understand it, we always mentioned it from the beginning. We had good discussions about it. They understand it.

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“When they play against the British and Irish Lions there might be situations – it will be case by case but it will be a very rare occasion – where we might say this player has to have some game time, maybe we will release him for the Bulls game but the problem there is you lose him for ten days because they have to go into a bubble (for that long) before they play the Lions, that is just part of the contract. 

“That is the whole logistical thing but if we feel this boy really needs game time, he’s not sharp, we don’t think he is where he should be, that would be a surprise because we have been all over them with alignment camps and everything. 

“So in theory it might change if there is common logic and we see this guy needs game time, we might release one or two but we have to suffer the consequences of not having that guy for ten days of coaching. In theory, no one will play in the final of the Rainbow Cup out of this 46 and no one will play in the midweek matches against the Lions.”

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Rassie Erasmus delivers final blow to the already damaged Rainbow Cup

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