Unless SA Rugby bosses are able to launch some kind of competition, fans should forget about the Springboks playing any Test rugby in 2020.
JOHANNESBURG – South African rugby bosses – and rugby-starved fans should forget about the Springboks playing any Test rugby this year.
That is, unless the leadership of rugby in this country are able to get some kind of domestic competition up and running – and soon. But that doesn’t seem likely.
The reality is that with no rugby having been played in South Africa since mid-March and not likely to be played for some time still, the world champion Springboks will be in no shape later this year to compete equally with New Zealand or Australia – or any other Test team, for that matter – in any form of series or championship.
As sad as it is, this country’s rugby leadership almost have no choice now – four months after the suspension of all rugby due to the spread and threat of the coronavirus – but to write off the Test year.
With Covid-19 cases on the increase in this country, including at some of the rugby unions (just yesterday it was reported in the media that four employees of the Lions, including one player and one management member had tested positive recently) a return-to-play, or even to train in groups, seems some way off. SA Rugby bosses are awaiting news from the government about when the franchises can return to action but in the current climate getting the much-needed green-light any time soon appears unlikely.
It was hoped that the six local franchises – the Bulls, Lions, Sharks, Stormers, Kings and Cheetahs – would be able to compete in a new-look Currie Cup competition from the end of August to, in part, help prepare the national players for possibly playing in the Rugby Championship later this year.
But if that competition doesn’t get up and running and there is no rugby played locally, then the Boks might as well not play in any Tests because they will simply not be ready.
New Zealand’s five Super Rugby teams have been in action in their own domestic competition since June 13 (and what quality rugby they have produced, with several players in superb form), while Australia’s local competition kicked off recently too.
Come October, November or December – the time of a proposed Rugby Championship taking place in a safe “bio-bubble” – and those countries’ players would be in top shape and form, with match-intensity fitness ingrained in their bodies.
The Boks would have played no rugby, they’d be rusty, they’d be unconditioned, they’d be in a foreign environment and their reputation as World Cup winners would be on the line.
It’s not worth it. Either the World Cup winners must be match-ready, hardened and in shape, or they mustn’t play at all.
And there are other issues at stake as well, like whether the Boks’ new coach Jacques Nienaber will be allowed to pick players who’re contracted to overseas clubs and play domestically in France England and Japan.
Right now, it looks like the closest fans are going to get to seeing some of their World Cup heroes in action this year will be in a home-based competition, but that is likely to happen only much later in the year, if at all.