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Springboks commit to SANZAAR amid renewed Nations Championship talk

By Sam Smith
(Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

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The Springboks will continue to compete in the Rugby Championship until 2025 after South Africa Rugby [SAR] joined its SANZAAR partners in committing to the organisation for another three years.

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SANZAAR confirmed on Wednesday that SAR, New Zealand Rugby [NZR], Rugby Australia [RA] and Union Argentina Rugby [UAR] have all agreed to maintain their partnership through until the end of the current broadcasting cycle.

The announcement comes after mounting speculation that SAR would throw its lot in with the Six Nations following the move of its four Super Rugby teams – the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers – to the United Rugby Championship in Europe.

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However, it seems, for the time being, that the Springboks will remain in the Rugby Championship, which SANZAAR confirmed will return to its full format after two Covid-disrupted seasons saw the competition largely staged in Australia in 2020 and 2021.

The schedule for this year’s competition is yet to be released, although SAR has already confirmed that the All Blacks will return to South Africa for the first time since 2018 to play two tests in Nelspruit and Johannesburg in August.

UAR will also open its doors back up to the Wallabies, Springboks and All Blacks for the first time in three years, with Los Pumas having not played a home test at all in that timespan.

Whether or not any further alterations will be made to the Rugby Championship over the coming years remains to be seen as rumours continue to persist about the revival of the Nations Championship concept.

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A report from the Sydney Morning Herald revealed on Wednesday that Six Nations and Rugby Championship bosses are due to meet in London to discuss the feasibility of the global tournament that was first floated by World Rugby in 2019.

The proposal would have seen Japan and Fiji admitted into the Rugby Championship to pit the world’s top 12 nations against each other in a league format every two years, outside of World Cup and British and Irish Lions tour years.

It also would have provided minnow nations from around the world with a genuine pathway into the Six Nations or Rugby Championship through the use of promotion and relegation between a multi-tiered divisional competition structure.

However, the tournament never got off the ground after some Six Nations unions voted against the idea due to fear of relegation, while other concerns centred around the impact the Nations Championship would have on the prestige of the World Cup.

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Three years since on from World Rugby’s unsuccessful attempt to bring the Nations Championship to fruition, the chief executives of the 10 Six Nations and Rugby Championship national unions are set to enter renewed discussions about the idea.

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RA chief executive Andy Marinos told the Sydney Morning Herald that the Nations Championship makes “commercial and financial sense for everybody” and would provide fans with more narrative throughout the July and November test windows.

Likewise, SANZAAR chief executive Brendon Morris said the Nations Championship has the potential “to grow our game and take it to the next level” should it take place from 2024 as planned.

While the implications that may have for the Rugby Championship are yet to be determined, SANZAAR chairman Marcelo Rodriguez said he is pleased to have NZR, RA, SAR and UAR onboard for the foreseeable future.

“The pandemic has created a very unusual sporting environment over the last two years with match and commercial delivery severely affected,” Rodriguez said via a statement.

“This has seen the member unions work very hard to keep rugby alive and present during Covid and at times this has not been easy.

“Indeed there has been much speculation about the future but it is now great that all members have committed through until the end of 2025 as a minimum.

“This means we can concentrate on ensuring the Rugby Championship remains as one of the best rugby tournaments on the world calendar.”

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