SA Rugby are remaining tightlipped on whether or not the Springboks will play in next month’s Rugby Championship in Australia following a New Zeland Herald report claiming they will be pulling out and boycotting the event.
A statement from SA Rugby read: “An SA Rugby spokesperson said that speculation in the media that the Springboks were to be withdrawn from the Rugby Championship had been noted.
“However, it would make no comment on the reports until SANZAAR had updated all stakeholders through official channels, which was expected to be on Friday.”
Fears that the world champions Springboks would not be defending their Rugby Championship title accelerated last weekend when SA Rugby said they would be taking their time to consider all the protocols involved in travelling to the tournament where they are supposed to face Argentina in Brisbane on November 7.
That concern deepened when it emerged on Tuesday that SANZAAR have given SA Rugby a 48-hour ultimatum to decide for definite whether or not they would participate in the six-round tournament that will run until early December.
There is anxiety in South African rugby circles about the disadvantage the Springboks would face at the tournament. While players in New Zealand and Australia were back in action by June and July respectively, the restart has taken much longer to happen in South Africa.
There have been only three rounds of matches so far, two weekends with the Super Rugby sides and the other as part of a Springboks trial.
The SA Rugby statement on Tuesday following the 48-hour deadline read: “SANZAAR announced overnight that following a chief executives’ teleconference call on Tuesday, October 13, the SANZAAR member unions have agreed to provide SA Rugby with an additional 48 hours to finalise its internal stakeholder discussions on participation.
“This will now delay the scheduled departure of the Springboks from South Africa to Australia. SANZAAR said it would provide an update on the resolution of these discussions and a timetable for the Springboks participation in The Rugby Championship when available in the coming days.”
The South African refusal to take part will cost each of the four nations millions of dollars in lost broadcast revenue. SANZAAR had reportedly even revised the original match schedule to allow the Springboks players to get in more club games at home before departure but even that hasn’t pacified them.
The South Africans instead officially notified SANZAAR of their decision on Thursday not to take part and an official announcement is expected on Friday.