The Springboks will likely have to go back to the drawing board to reassess their preparations for the British and Irish Lions series with news that the Rainbow Cup is likely to be cancelled.

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The Lions, Bulls, Sharks and Stormers were set for a first foray into Europe after it was confirmed in March that the PRO14 Rainbow Cup would kick-off on the weekend of 24 April.

However, that is looking increasingly unlikely, with news that the participation of the South African franchises in the new tournament won’t be sanctioned. Yesterday Rugby 365 reported that the UK government in Westminster was reluctant to grant visas for the South African teams to play out of a bio-bubble in Bristol.

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While there was no scheduled English involvement in the Rainbow Cup, the four SA teams were to set to commute to their games in Wales, Scotland, Ireland and Italy from the English city. The South African franchises were told last week that they should halt their visa applications.

This morning, the CEO of the Sharks, Eduard Coetzee has told a South African newspaper that he understands that the tournament is likely to be canned.

“We have little information at this stage, but it seems to be the case that the Rainbow Cup will be cancelled,” Coetzee told Rapport in SA.

Last week, Springboks Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus, who confirmed the first Springbok ‘alignment camps’, said that with less than 90 days remaining before the arrival of the touring British and Irish Lions, they will “have to make every day count.”

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Maybe tellingly, there was no mention of The Rainbow Cup in the official SA Rugby statement.

“The local players will meet up with the coaches, medical and conditioning staff and rest of the management over the next two weeks, while we have similar plans for our European and Japanese-based players, with Felix Jones hosting sessions in the UK and France and the Japanese based-players joining us on virtual meetings,” said Erasmus.

While South African players based abroad will be seeing game time for their respective clubs, it’s the Springbok home-based players that will be in need of high-level game time ahead of the Lions series, whose first match on SA soil kicks off on July 3rd.

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In February SA Rugby held preparation fixtures featuring eight South African sides, including the Vodacom Bulls, Lions, Tafel Lager Griquas, Toyota Cheetahs, Cell C Sharks, DHL Stormers, NNC Pumas and Eastern Province Elephants.

While this competition proved helpful, Erasmus and Springbok head coach Jacques Nienaber will have eager to test the mettle of their elite players in more rarified air. What that actually looks like over the next two months, is not yet clear.

Last year the New Zealand Rugby staged ‘North versus South’ fixtures which proved highly popular with the public and provided near Test level competition ahead of the Tri-Nations. Springbok trial matches or even ad-hoc Test fixtures must surely now be in the cards for the Springboks, who have not played any international rugby since winning the Rugby World Cup in Japan at the end of the 2019 season, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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