The announcement that Australia would be the host of the 2020 Rugby Championship over New Zealand left a growing number of Springbok fans uneasy about the prospect of playing test rugby this year.
Before the announcement, conjecture around which hemisphere they would play in this year offered the chance to explore the option that suited the Springboks best.
The confirmation that the Rugby Championship would go ahead in Australia put the Springboks on a path to overcome perhaps the greatest challenge yet, preparing for test rugby with extremely limited preparation against the All Blacks and Wallabies, who both have played individual iterations of Super Rugby.
The prospect of an undercooked Springbok side playing an entire tournament in a foreign land was labelled a ‘recipe for the disaster’, with one fan saying he doesn’t ‘want the Boks to get massacred’ in their first tournament as world champions.
A bad result could ruin the momentum created by the World Cup, tarnish the gloss of the world champion tag and ‘ruin team morale for the Lions tour’. Compounded with a growing number of key injuries, the Springboks would be up against it to defend their Rugby Championship crown.
I want to have a RC but I also don't want the boks to get massacred add on to that a lot of our World cup starters in Europe are injured so it will be tough. If we do go we might as well send some up and coming guys.
— Bob the Builder (@BryceAllies) September 12, 2020
I would like to know what Rassie thinks is the best for the springboks. I agree sending an undercooked squad to face the All Blacks is a recipe for disaster and would rather see our players play locally. But money talks.
— Stephen Marsden (@StephenMarsden2) September 11, 2020
We already have a good number of players out on injury + the rest haven't played a match since March. Competing with dudes who'll have a 3 month head start in form/game time isn't smart at all. Besides being illogical you'll ruin team morale for the Lions tour. Currie Cup only.
— Such Is Life…. (@EnslinMavunga) September 12, 2020
I'm saying local bok players haven't played a single match since March. The overseas ones just started a month ago. Playing RC with NZ,Aussie who'll have 3 months of form/game time in October isn't smart. Match fitness is lacking. Rather concentrate on just CC
— Such Is Life…. (@EnslinMavunga) September 12, 2020
RG now Handre. And local comp hasnt even started. Dont think we will be able to go and defend the championship. Oaks must be match fit for such.
— Jimmy (@JHDW2017) September 12, 2020
Most people will remember how the Boks performed in their first comp as champs. I also want to see the Boks out there playing, but not at the expense of putting a make-do team to the slaughter against NZ
— Jason Gilbey (@JasonGilbs) September 11, 2020
Both AU and NZ had full Super rugby campaigns. If we do play in the champs we will go in with no match fitness and will probably come back with 7 to 8 injuries. Most of our locks are already sidelined as well. Can't see a positive outcome to be honest.
— Rate the Ref (@RugbyMrRef) September 11, 2020
News that Springbok flyhalf Handre Pollard suffered a long-term knee injury playing for Montpellier added to the growing injury toll of key Springbok players, with RG Snyman and Lood de Jager all recently injured playing in Europe. A number of fans expect a second string side full of up and comers would have to be sent to Australia.
This sentiment was echoed by former Springbok captain Wynand Claassen who said it ‘doesn’t make any sense’ to play the games.
“I honestly believe they should not play in the Championship; it simply doesn’t make any sense to me,” Claassen told The Citizen.
“If one thinks that New Zealand and Australia have been playing their domestic rugby for the last two months and our rugby hasn’t even restarted yet, we would definitely be underprepared.”
Not all Springbok fans were opposed to playing despite the dangers posed, with Twitter polls suggesting that there is plenty of appetite to see the Springboks play this year in any state to ensure that some test rugby is played before the Lions tour.
should Boks play Test’s this year? priority to build steam ahead of Lions? but Test rugby is not a joke if you not prepared.. do more damage than good? better to let guys build up in local and european comps?
— Oom Rugby (@Oom_Rugby) September 10, 2020
Boks must go defend their Rugby championship in Sydney and people must stop giving us compelling arguments. https://t.co/TySGNa8EHB
— Drake ? (@MvusiTroc) September 11, 2020
The compulsory 14 day quarantine period in Aus prior to Rugby Champs basically gives the Boks a 2 week camp. Not heard of outside of World Cup years. Sure, a few speed bumps to get over, but I say the World Champs must bloody play! #BoksMustPlay
— Front Row Grunt (@FrontRowGrunt) September 11, 2020
How are we gonna prepare for the Lions if we don’t play now? This could be the only international window for our locally based and overseas players to play together before the biggest series in 12 years.
— Thala Msutu (@ThalaMsutu77) September 11, 2020
It still remains to be seen whether Argentina and South Africa are able to turn up to compete in the Rugby Championship, while reports suggest some top All Blacks could opt out of the tournament leaving New Zealand understrength also.
With potentially up to eight weeks away from families, NZR said it would support those players who decide to stay at home.
“This challenge of what they are about to undertake is going to be significant and we will back them and their families in whatever way we need to ensure they are looked after,” NZR’s Chief Executive Mark Robinson said.
With domestic rugby under the belt, New Zealand and Australia would still be in a stronger position to field a team despite missing top stars while the Springboks and Pumas have the odds stacked against them.
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