New Zealand had its hope of hosting this year’s Rugby Championship in a bio-bubble burst by Sanzaar on Friday.
Instead, the southern hemisphere rugby bosses announced that the competition will be played in Australia – with New Zealand suffering a fresh outbreak of the coronavirus last month.
But there’s another question mark and that is the participation of defending champions South Africa in the tournament.
After news broke of the plans to go Down Under, the South African Rugby Union (Saru) sent out a statement of its own.
CEO Jurie Roux says of the tournament that will be held from
November 7 to December 12: “We are pleased that the venue has now been confirmed and would like to commend Sanzaar and Rugby
Australia for their work behind the scenes to make it possible.
“We are very eager to see the Springboks return to play but there are still some hurdles to clear and we will be addressing those in the coming weeks.”
Roux adds that SA Rugby could not confirm participation while a ban on international sport remained in place at home, while there were other high performance and player wellness issues to consider.
He pointed out that NZ resumed match play three months ago.
By contrast, SA players only resumed contact training two weeks ago.
Explaining the decision to play the tournament in Australia instead of New Zealand, Sanzaar CEO Andy Marinos says: “Sanzaar ultimately determined that based on government required quarantine protocols [for entry and training prior to the tournament] and commercial underwriting, the Rugby Australia submission was the most desirable and workable in terms of tournament logistics for the essential pre-tournament preparation period and the six-week tournament itself.”
He adds of South Africa’s participation: “The progress and impact of the pandemic has varied from country to country and international sporting competition is currently suspended in South Africa.
“The Springboks’ participation will be dependent on the relaxation of that suspension as well as overcoming a number of other logistical challenges including the opening of international air borders.”