The Rainbow Cup will not turn out as rooskleurig as the South African Rugby Union would have hoped for at the start of the competition.
SA Rugby’s director of rugby Rassie Erasmus revealed that the 46 Springboks selected over the weekend to play against Georgia and the British and Irish Lions will not be available in the tournament’s finale in Italy on June 19.
As it stands, the Bulls – four points above the Sharks heading into their final round-robin clash at Kings Park on Saturday – are a shoo-in to face the northern hemisphere’s Rainbow Cup winner in that intercontinental clash.
But Bulls boss Jake White will have to do so without his stars, with his fellow World Cup-winning coach Erasmus saying: “It’s not easy when you’re a franchise coach and you know your Springbok player in the 46-man squad is not going to play for you in the Rainbow Cup final.
“Let’s say the Bulls or the Sharks go through and they play Benetton or Munster, they will play without their Springboks.
“They understand it, we always mentioned it from the beginning. It’s not nice for them, we’ve had good discussions about it and they understand it.”
Asked if it then wouldn’t have been easier to withdraw the players now already – ahead of the final round of fixtures – to prevent injuries such as the one suffered by Duane Vermeulen (ankle) against the Stormers last weekend, Erasmus says: “It would be nice...
“But I’ve been on the other side and I’ve coached the Stormers and the Cheetahs. “There are coaches under pressure with families and contracts and performance clauses and stuff like that.
“It sounds easy to do and I think we can, but we just wouldn’t because we feel it’s unfair…
“We already asked them to please rest 46 players in alignment camps and please rest them for one game and that already put coaches under pressure… some guys who didn’t even make the squad, we asked to rest.
“You can think what a local coach thinks: ‘you ask me to rest this player and now you don’t even pick him’.
“It will be unfair on the coaches, franchises, sponsors, etc.”