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South African scribe calls for All Blacks to be booted from Rugby Championship

By Sam Smith
(Photo by Muhammad Amir Abidin/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

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A South African columnist has called for the All Blacks to be withdrawn from the Rugby Championship following their decision not travel to Perth.

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New Zealand Rugby [NZR] announced on Friday that the All Blacks wouldn’t travel to Perth this weekend to play in next week’s Bledisloe Cup clash as planned after New Zealand went into lockdown following a community outbreak of Covid-19.

The announcement, which also confirmed the All Blacks will not host any further test matches in New Zealand this year, was met with anger from Rugby Australia [RA].

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Wallabies head coach Dave Rennie said he was “bloody angry” that his players found out the news via social media and that NZR didn’t consult RA about their decision.

RA chief executive Andy Marinos echoed Rennie’s sentiments as he described NZR’s decision as “incredibly disappointing”.

Writing for keo.co.za, South African columnist Mark Keohane went one step further and called for the All Blacks to either forfeit points for missing next weekend’s match or be booted from the Rugby Championship.

Keohane was critical of NZR’s treatment of its SANZAAR partners and the Pacific Island nations as he wrote that the national union is a “self-serving” organisation that “has no meaningful investment in the SANZAAR alliance”.

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“The New Zealand Rugby Union, in the way its leadership conducted itself during Super Rugby and now during the Rugby Championship, is self-serving, about the All Blacks only and has no meaningful investment in the SANZAAR alliance, outside of how it serves New Zealand,” Keohane wrote.

“It has always been New Zealand’s approach to the development of the Pacific Islands teams like Fiji, Tonga and Samoa. New Zealand rugby conveniently has always made it a World Rugby issue and not one of the most established rugby power making the Pacific Islands competitive and adding something more than just Australia to their immediate landscape.”

Keohane wrote that while the All Blacks opted out of their third clash against the Wallabies, which would have doubled as a Rugby Championship match, South Africa, Argentina and Australia “are scrambling” to keep the competition alive.

“The All Blacks on Friday simply pulled the rug on their second Rugby Championship fixture against the Wallabies in Perth, which is a match that would have doubled as the third and final Bledisloe Cup match in a series the All Blacks have already won for the 19th successive year.

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“Now SANZAAR’s remaining partners, South Africa, Australia and Argentina are scrambling to either relocate the tournament to South Africa or to Europe, while Rugby Australia is desperate to get local government approval from Queensland for the Championship to be played in Brisbane.

“The tournament should either be held in Europe or in South Africa, given the Covid situation in Australia and New Zealand and the closing of international borders.

“If the All Blacks can’t make their games, then they should forfeit the points or they should withdraw from the tournament and allow Australia, South Africa and Argentina to get on with it.”

Keohane’s column comes after the Springboks withdrew from last year’s edition of the Rugby Championship, citing player welfare concerns surrounding international travel and border restrictions amid the global pandemic.

Without them, the All Blacks, Wallabies and Los Pumas played a makeshift Tri-Nations tournament staged entirely in Australia.

Keohane added that the Springboks should end their time in the Rugby Championship and facilitate a move north to join the Six Nations.

Such a move would follow the lead of South Africa’s club sides – the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers – all of whom abandoned Super Rugby in the wake of Covid-19 and joined the PRO14 to create the United Rugby Championship.

“It really is time to end a partnership that has never been on equal terms. South African rugby’s days with SANZAAR should not extend the 2023 Rugby World Cup. It is time to move on from New Zealand and Australia,” Keohane wrote.

“It should be a case of ‘see you at the World Cup’ when it comes to the Springboks playing the All Blacks and Australia.

“Alternatively, see you in the United States for a commercially motivated exhibition game.

“Or if the All Blacks want to play the Springboks, then it becomes part of the end of year tour, with the Springboks aligned to the northern hemisphere.”

“… The All Blacks can have their Bledisloe Cup side-show with Australia. The All Blacks have won the Cup 19 years in a row, but every All Black talks of it being the biggest achievement outside of winning a World Cup. Give them their Bledisloe Cup guarantee and allow them to go to the World Cup every four years to see if this dominance over Australia translates into global superiority.”

He added: “There has been an ongoing call for the Springboks to be added to an expanded Six Nations or replace the tournament’s whipping boys Italy. Half the Springboks test squad plays for clubs up north and the South African rugby alignment should be on a flight to London and not Sydney.

“If Italy’s place is non-negotiable, then add the Springboks and Argentina to an expanded Six Nations and make it the most sought after international annual tournament with these eight nations. Let New Zealand, Australia, Japan and the Pacific Islands have their international tournament.”

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South African scribe calls for All Blacks to be booted from Rugby Championship

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