Springboks ‘desperate’ to play 2020 Rugby Championship, but logistical hoops remain

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  • Springbok director of rugby Rassie Erasmus says the Springboks “need to play” in the 2020 Rugby Championship.
  • The logistics surrounding the tournament, however, are proving incredibly problematic. 
  • As things stand, the Boks do not have government approval to travel to Australia … and that is just one of several issues. 

The Springboks are “desperate” to play in the 2020 Rugby Championship, but the logistical hoops to go through to field a team in Australia continue to make things incredibly difficult. 

Competitive rugby in South Africa has only just returned, with this past weekend’s franchise double-header at Loftus the first rugby the country has seen in six months. 

There is a Springbok ‘Green’ v ‘Gold’ trial match at Newlands this weekend before a combined Super Rugby/Currie Cup product gets underway on 10 October, but with the Australia-based Rugby Championship starting on 7 November, time is fast running out for the world champions if they are to get to that tournament. 

Director of rugby Rassie Erasmus confirmed on Monday that players would need between 400-500 minutes, at least, to be able to play in the Rugby Championship. 

Some of the overseas-based players are starting to hit those metrics now, but the majority of the players in the Bok mix are locally based and, for them, reaching an acceptable level of conditioning by the 7 November date with Argentina in Brisbane is becoming an increasingly tall order. 

There is also still no clarity on when South Africa’s English-based players will be made available for their country, especially those involved in the business end of the English Premiership with semi-finals set to take place over 10/11 October and the final only scheduled for 24 October. 

“We desperately want to go play. We want to play Springbok rugby and it would be terrible to go through a year without playing Test matches,” Erasmus said. 

“It’s more the English clubs that will be involved in their semi-finals and final. We haven’t really got a clear answer about when their players would be available. The French clubs I think are aligned with us.

“You have to arrive at the same time and it will be a massive squad. You have to be there for eight weeks and quarantine is two weeks. You’ll have to take four looseheads, four tightheads, four hookers … because if you get an injury in those key positions, then the player who comes in must go to quarantine for two weeks. That makes it problematic.

“It’s not that we can’t overcome it, but if the overseas-based players only arrive two weeks after us because of their finals they have to play in the Premiership, then in the first two weeks when we actually start playing against Argentina, they will still be in quarantine.”

The quarantine period means that the Boks need to all arrive at the same time, because if players go down injured and need to be replaced, then those players coming in would not be able to immediately join up with the squad. 

“It’s a bit of a logistics problem apart from not having your best team there for the first two weeks,” Erasmus added. 

“We’re working really hard to try and see how we can make this work and we are having weekly calls with Sanzaar. Our CEO is working really hard with them in terms of the financial models. Everyone is trying really hard.

“We have to get five to six games into the players before it is safe for them in terms of injury risk and player welfare.

“We’re busy investigating how we can best manage those things in terms of how we can make the Rugby Championship happen.

“The players need between 400-500 minutes to be competitive and safe to play a high-performance tournament, and those players are  probably the overseas-based players. But even with them, the player with the highest minutes there is currently on just over 400 minutes. There are still two weeks to go.

“We don’t have an answer, We know we want to go and, actually, we know we have to go. We just don’t know at this stage how we’re going to make it possible to go.”

Springbok head coach Jacques Nienaber also pointed to the fact that, as things stand, the Boks would not be allowed to travel even if they could find a way to manage the logistics once they arrive in Australia. 

“There are a few things that we have to consider but the first one is that there is still no green light from the government currently. That is something that is out of our hands, so we’re awaiting guidance and agreement from government,” said Nienaber.

“Once that happens, we have to look at other factors.

“The isolation period in Australia will not be as strict as it would have been in New Zealand, but the detail around it like what recovery modalities we are allowed to use and stuff like that hasn’t been spelled out yet. They’re still working on that with their government to give us guidelines in terms of what we can do when we actually get there.”

Rugby Championship 2020 fixtures

Round One – Saturday, 7 November – Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane

Argentina v South Africa

Australia v New Zealand

Round Two – Saturday, 14 November – Bankwest Stadium, Sydney

New Zealand v Argentina

South Africa v Australia

Round Three – Saturday, 21 November – ANZ Stadium, Sydney

New Zealand v South Africa

Australia v Argentina

Round Four – Saturday, 28 November – McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle

Argentina v Australia

South Africa v New Zealand

Round Five – Saturday, 5 December – Bankwest Stadium, Sydney

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