Speculation continues to swirl that world champions South Africa may pull out of the Rugby Championship in a massive blow to the four-nation tournament.
South African Rugby are set to announce whether or not they will participate in the seven-week tournament in Australia, starting later this month with a Test between the Wallabies and All Blacks.
Many of the Argentine players have already arrived in Australia but there are ongoing concerns about the Springboks’ lack of preparation, with their players only just resuming Super Rugby after a six month delay due to COVID-19.
The Springboks haven’t played together since winning the World Cup final against England in Japan last November.
SA Rugby issued a statement over the weekend, saying there were still “hurdles” to clear before they could confirm they will play.
“The Springboks ability to participate in the Rugby Championship would be finalised early next week,” the statement said.
“The team is due to defend its title in Australia between 7 November and 12 December, but several hurdles needed to be cleared if it’s to be confirmed.”
There is speculation that Rassie Erasmus, who coached the Springboks to the World Cup last year and is now director of rugby, will cite “player welfare” as the reason for their late withdrawal.
Former World Cup-winning Springboks coach Jake White, currently coaching the Bulls in the South African domestic competition, said he didn’t think the team would be ready for the Rugby Championship.
“I understand fully that it’s not the ideal preparation and, probably, if I was a coach I’d be asking SA Rugby to try and find ways in which we don’t participate because the situation is a bit unfair,” White said after the Bulls game in Pretoria.
“There are locally based players who’ve only played two competitive games and now have to go into Rugby Championship. It’s not ideal.”
White conceded that the financial implications of not playing could force the hand of administrators.
“I also fully understand that there are other things that come into play,” White said.
“We are the current holders of the title and there is the matter of television rights being place.
“If you’re sitting in the boardroom and you’re doing the sums you have a perception of what should happen and if you’re a coach you have another.
“It’s a difficult decision to make.”
– Melissa Woods
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