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South Africa withdraw from Rugby Championship over player welfare fears

South Africa will no longer be competing in this year’s Rugby Championship due to fears of coronavirus and to protect the welfare of their players.

With two weeks to go, Australia, New Zealand and Argentina will now be competing in the Rugby Championships which is being hosted in Australia. The first time the tournaments ever taken place in one country.

The 2019 champions fear that competing in this year’s tournament will place too much strain on the welfare of their players due to having less time to prepare compared to hosts Australia and New Zealand. The two have had the privilege of competing domestically and began their test campaign last week.

Jurie Roux, SARU Chief Executive said in statement, “This is a hugely disappointing outcome for supporters and commercial partners but the on-going impacts of the pandemic ... mean we are unable to deliver a Springbok team without seriously compromising player welfare, apart from other logistical challenges,”

The tournament had been pushed back because of the current pandemic as Rassie Erasmus, Springboks director of rugby has said, “We worked out that the players needed a minimum of 400 minutes of game-time before they could be ready for a test match.

“The overseas-based players had started playing before us and they would have been getting close to that.

“But many of those have had Covid outbreaks (at their clubs) which has interrupted the planning. The Japan-based players haven’t played any rugby at all.”

It will be the first time South Africa will not be competing against New Zealand and Australia since 1994. The withdrawal of the World Champions means that there will be bye weekends. It’s been almost 12 months since the last time South Africa competed, triumphing against England in the final of the World Cup. With that in consideration, the British and Irish Lions tour is scheduled to commence next summer in July and by then, it could be at least 18 months without a competitive international fixture.

"Sanzaar and Rugby Australia have bent over backwards to make the tournament happen and it would have been unfair on them, their partners and state government to delay a decision any longer." Concludes Roux.

Author: James Parker