New Springboks coach Jacques Nienaber has put serious doubts into whether his side will play in a New Zealand-based Rugby Championship competition later this year.
Last week NZ Rugby chief executive Mark Robinson confirmed his organisation is working with the Government to host the Rugby Championship through November and December in New Zealand with international rugby suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.
That would see Australia, Argentina and South Africa all base themselves in New Zealand for the entire competition.
Those plans have been given the green light by World Rugby, with its executive committee confirming a temporary international window between October 24 and December 5.
World Rugby said the Rugby Championship will be held between November 7 and December 12 in one country.
After a slow start, South Africa’s been ravaged by Covid-19 since May, with no sport being played and leading players only now allowed back to train in groups of five.
Nienaber says whether or not the world champions will make the trip to New Zealand will depend on if a domestic competition gets underway in South Africa. But it would have to start soon.
South Africa Rugby reportedly hopes to start the Currie Cup at the end of August or early September.
“We have a responsibility to ensure that the players have received sufficient conditioning so that they can play rugby,” Nienaber told Rapport newspaper.
The Springboks coach said he’d want to bring a massive 45-man squad to New Zealand but only if the players got in at least six games of Currie Cup action.
“If we can’t play six games, then I don’t think we will go,” he said. “The player well-being risk would just be too great.”
“It’s about practical considerations,” he added about the squad size.
“If you pick three hookers and you lose one, a new one has to fly from South Africa. He will then have to be quarantined for two weeks. He will therefore only be able to play in his fourth week.
“We will go to New Zealand with at least four hookers, four tightheads and four looseheads.”
Last week South Africa Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux said the Springboks are pinning their hopes to a Rugby Championship hosted in New Zealand as the only opportunity for tests this year.
Roux said the world champions won’t play at home this season.
“We are not planning on hosting any international games in South Africa this year. That’s the system we’re currently working with. Our best chance of play is either within New Zealand and if that doesn’t materialise within the Rugby Championship, a second option is us going north and possibly playing test matches.”
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