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'We are burning our assets into the ground': Bok greats on South Africa joining Six Nations

By Josh Raisey
England verus South Africa

Ever since the South African club sides joined the United Rugby Championship, and then the European competitions after, it has seemed to many that we are moving inexorably towards the Springboks joining the Six Nations.

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There are undeniable benefits to the world champions joining the Six Nations for all parties concerned, but it remains an idea that is not universally welcomed in South Africa, as shown on RugbyPass’ ‘Boks Office’ recently.

Two Springbok centurions, Jean de Villiers and Bryan Habana, joined double World Cup winner Damian Willemse and host Hanyani Shimange on the show during the Cape Town SVNS, where they gave their views on the Springboks joining the northern hemisphere competition.

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While the Springboks’ record try-scorer Habana was dead set against his compatriots relocating to a new competition, de Villiers appeared to be slightly more on the fence, although he does feel South Africa currently have “the best of both worlds.”

“The thing there is, we’re giving our opinion in what we think is best for South Africa, but do they want us there?” the former centre asked.

“I don’t think so,” Habana replied.

De Villiers added: “The Six Nations, what it stands for, the history of it, you need to ask those questions as well. How does it influence the history of the game and all of that. I think we’ve got the best of both worlds currently where we play our club rugby in the northern hemisphere and and we play our international rugby in the southern hemisphere in the Rugby Championship. So you get the best of both worlds.

“If we were to move totally to the northern hemisphere, we’ve already seen the logistical challenges with that and I think we’ll lose a big part of what South African rugby is all about, because we play New Zealand so much, because we play Australia and Argentina so much. So from that point of view, moving away to me will be risky. But a lot of the decisions get made on a financial basis and not really on the rugby as such, to be brutally honest.”

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The problem that South Africa face currently is that their international fixtures straddle the northern hemisphere’s off-season, meaning their players get little to no break. However, instead of the Springboks leaving the Rugby Championship, Habana proposed how this problem can be solved by creating a global calendar.

“I don’t think we should move,” the former winger said. “If we really want rugby to become a global game, the season needs to start in September, the Rugby Championship needs to move to the Six Nations window, then it’s a global calendar. Jean talked about the financial impact, the money, as we’ve seen, is [gestures higher].

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“If we really want a global season, everyone must start in September. Jean says we have the best of both worlds, but these guys [South Africa players] aren’t getting any rest now because they’re literally going from Champions Cup, if they make it to the knockouts, URC, if they make it to the knockouts, into a Springbok season, into the Rugby Championship, and then end of year tour.

The Springboks’ workload is a major area of concern currently, and de Villiers discussed the toll that will have on the players. He said: “Whoever is watching, we love the game of rugby. At this stage, especially from a South African point of view, we are burning our assets into the ground. Especially those playing in South Africa. That is the issue for us. Physically, they can probably take it, but the mental aspect of it, the whole Owen Farrell thing as well now, the mental aspect of representing your country, the issues that go with that, that is huge. I think we’re at the start of that from a rugby point of view in terms of mental health, but we need to look after these guys. We want the product to be good and for the product to be good you need your best players on the field more times than not.”

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40 Comments
J
Jon 188 days ago

“I don’t think we should move,” the former winger said. “If we really want rugby to become a global game, the season needs to start in September, the Rugby Championship needs to move to the Six Nations window, then it’s a global calendar. Jean talked about the financial impact, the money, as we’ve seen, is [gestures higher].
No, the season needs to start in March and end in November. Get rid of this split year crap.
The Southern Hemisphere really needs to sort of its stuff out if anything is going to come. South Africa playing in summer is not sustainable. The SH version of Champions Cup - Super Rugby - either needs to span the whole season or take a back seat to CC status.

6N needs to change it’s window so JRLO players can participate, whether Scottish, Welsh, or English. SA has the capacity to play multiple competitions though, both internationally and domestically. Perhaps they can keep their Franchises in SR, and have Currie Cup sides compete in (their own fully professional league) the CC, against more like minded ‘club’ type sides. That still leaves the European imbalance of some of the other URC groups ‘franchise’ like regional focus versus the big leagues traditional club style. Really the game is a whole big mess and it might just be easier to fracture it and only come back together again for a World Cup.

B
Brett 189 days ago

In NZ the thought was ok Sth Africa sides playing in the Northern Hemisphere was going to have a bad effect on NZ Rugby by not playing in NZ, but that is not the case.Sth African rugby is out for the money and not for the game which is having a huge effect on there rugby.European rugby is diluting Sth African rugby.😉

H
Hilton 190 days ago

I dont support joining the 6 Nations way too much Rugga for the Springboks also where would they keep yet another trophy?

J
Jeff 190 days ago

I can assure you nobody from Northern Hemisphere want SA to join the Six Nations, just like nobody wanted them to join the European Champions cup. Alas, they will probably find a way.

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