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Springboks star Pieter-Steph du Toit opens up on possible move to Six Nations

By Sam Smith
(Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

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Springboks star Pieter-Steph du Toit has responded to speculation about a potential move by South Africa to the Six Nations.

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Speculation has been rife in recent months – and years – about the future of South African rugby, with various reports suggesting the reigning world champions are in line to move away from SANZAAR and the Rugby Championship to join Europe’s elite.

South Africa’s four franchises – the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers – have already left Super Rugby to join what is now known as the United Rugby Championship, formerly the Pro14.

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That move is indicative of where the South African Rugby Union [SARU] sees its future, with SANZAAR chief executive Brendon Morris revealing last month that the SARU were “exploring their options” beyond the current SANZAAR broadcast deal, which ends in 2025.

Should the Springboks ditch the Rugby Championship for the Six Nations, it would end the SARU’s long-standing partnership with New Zealand Rugby and Rugby Australia, all of whom created SANZAR in 1996 prior to Argentina’s admission in 2012.

It’s for that reason that Du Toit said such a move would be tinted with a sense of sadness when speaking to media about the prospect of South Africa’s departure from SANZAAR.

“I think there are pro and cons of moving there [the Six Nations] and moving away from the [Rugby] Championship,” the 2019 World Rugby Player of the Year said in a press conference with All Blacks lock and Toyota Verblitz teammate Patrick Tuipulotu.

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“I don’t know what they are going to do. My personal opinion, it’s going to be sad leave the Rugby Championship, and not play against New Zealand, Australia and Argentina, but I guess there comes a time in people’s lives where they have to move on.

“I’m not sure now is the right time but the right people, the smart people who make the decisions and do their homework on which is best for the tournaments and teams will make the decision, and we’ll take it forward from there.”

Tuipulotu, who is on a season-long sabbatical with fifth-placed Toyota in the top division of Japan Rugby League One, echoed Du Toit’s sentiments.

Since making his test debut in 2014, Tuipulotu has played the Springboks seven times and has regularly toured South Africa while playing for the All Blacks and Blues.

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The 41-test international agreed that the loss of South Africa from the Rugby Championship would be sad for the tournament as he suggested the All Blacks, Wallabies and Los Pumas would be worse off without them.

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“If it does happen it would be quite sad. Throughout my time I’ve always enjoyed playing in South Africa against the South African Super Rugby sides, and especially the Springboks,” Tuipulotu said.

“For both of us there is a special relationship. Even coming here [Japan] now, there’s a special relationship now with Pieter and Willie [le Roux], and a lot of guys from different countries. I think that’s the special thing about rugby.

“As Pieter mentioned before, it would be quite sad but you’ve got to move on. That’s all you can do. Us as players, you focus on your next job, next role on the field, and I suppose, off the field, that’s what it comes down to.

“But, definitely for my development as a player, I can’t take it for granted, the tough physical edge you get from South African rugby sides.

“For myself, I think it was important that I got exposure to that, and definitely learnt a lot, the hard way, playing against that style of rugby. It certainly made me a better player now.”

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