South Africa will NOT join Six Nations as world champions commit to Rugby Championship until 2030 after pulling out of this year’s tournament due to Covid-19 concerns
- South Africa won last year’s tournament months before their World Cup triumph
- This year’s competition just comprises Argentina, Australia and New Zealand
- The tournament’s home-and-away format will make way for a ‘mini-tour’ set-up
South Africa have reaffirmed their commitment to the Rugby Championship until 2030, organisers SANZAAR said on Wednesday, bringing an end to speculation that the world champions may look to join Europe’s Six Nations in 2024 after the next Rugby World Cup.
The competition, which usually pits the Springboks against New Zealand, Argentina and Australia, is going ahead without Rassie Erasmus’ men in 2020 after South Africa pulled out because of player welfare concerns surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic.
Only one match has been played of this year’s Tri-Nations series so far, with New Zealand pummelling Australia 43-5 on Saturday.
South Africa secured their fourth Rugby Championship last year after beating Argentina 46-13
SANZAAR said the four-nation alliance, which also includes New Zealand, Australia and Argentina, would be restructured and a ‘revised’ 10-year strategic plan would include ‘future growth and expansion’ for the Rugby Championship.
Instead of the current format where every team plays everyone else home and away (apart from during World Cup years), a ‘mini-tour’ schedule will its take place, with a nation hosting a rival for two matches one season and playing a double-header away the following year.
Although South Africa Rugby said player welfare concerns were behind the late withdrawal, the decision came as a surprise to the other nations and had led to fears over the future of the SANZAAR alliance.
The Springboks won last year’s Rugby Championship to clinch their fourth title in the eight edition of the tournament, before going on to beat England in the Rugby World Cup final less than three months later.
‘The re-commitment by the four unions to the long term future of the international game is an important start as we embark in a new direction,’ SANZAAR chief executive Andy Marinos said.
‘The disruption during 2020 has been significant. However, despite the numerous setbacks and the inherent complexity of our vast geographical expanse, we have managed to keep the game alive.’
The Springboks followed up their Rugby Championship this year by winning the World Cup
SANZAAR faced turmoil earlier this year due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, with the club-based Super Rugby competition, involving sides from Argentina, Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Africa, abruptly ending in March.
South Africa Rugby withdrew its four teams from any future Super Rugby competition in September and said they would look to join Europe’s PRO14, comprising Irish, Italian, Scottish and Welsh teams.
They then made the decision last month to withdraw the Springboks from the Rugby Championship for this year.
Japan reached the quarter-finals of their home World Cup and played some fantastic rugby
Japan, who reached the quarter-finals of the last World Cup, and the Pacific island nations, particularly Fiji, have previously been mooted as possible additions to the competition.
SANZAAR also said more changes would be announced in coming weeks and months, with domestic club and provincial tournaments also set for a restructure.
New Zealand, Australia and South Africa were forced to organise domestic Super Rugby competitions this year due to the pandemic, and with travel restrictions likely to remain in place they may have to do so again in 2021.
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