Springboks' Six Nations inclusion 'only a matter of time'
The entry of either Georgia or Japan into the competition has been of the talk of rugby circles for some years now, with the latter’s excellent performances in two consecutive Rugby World Cups suggesting they are the new favourites to join.
This combined with Italy’s dire run in the competition – the Azzuri having not won a game since 2015 – suggests there is a public appetite for fresh meat.
However, Barnes believes that it is Southern Hemisphere heavyweights South Africa who will eventually join, with the admission of South African teams in the new United Rugby Championship and European Champions Cup competitions a key bellwether.
“The Pro 14 falls short of its French and English rivals because it lacks the constant clamour of regional and local rivalry. By admitting the South African quartet of heavyweights it has dispersed that most atmospheric of assets further,” wrote Barnes in the Sunday Times.
“One South African team, at least, will qualify for the European Champions Cup. Names, nationalities, they don’t seem to matter in rugby’s growing global world.
“The decision makers, meanwhile, have their sights set higher. With South Africa in Europe at club level, it is only a matter of time before they find their way into the Six/Seven who knows how many Nations.
“That’s where the money is — for the beleaguered South Africans, the game in general and the profit for the businessmen who market sport like any other product available from Amazon.
“This isn’t the beginning of a new Super Tournament so much as the first stage in the move to make Test rugby the only game that counts. The rest is broadcast small fry.”
Barnes’ take, at least in the short term, goes against a pledge made by South Africa to stay in SANZAAR to 2030 as part of a restructured competition. Jurie Roux, CEO of SA Rugby, said last November that “Although we had to change our domestic focus, we still have a long history with the All Blacks and Wallabies as well as a long-standing friendship with the Pumas and we look forward to more world class Test rugby.
“Ever since the Tri-Nations was first contested in 1996, and more recently the Castle Lager Rugby Championship from 2012, a team from the southern hemisphere has won the Rugby World Cup five out of six times – which is testimony to the high quality of test rugby played on this side of the equator.”
The Rugby Championship will be restructured to include a 12-match format with teams playing each other on a home or away basis through the new mini-tour match schedule that was adopted in 2019.
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