Will the Springboks play in the Rugby Championship, or not? That is the big question now that the competition has been confirmed to go ahead in Australia between November 7 and December 12.
There are a number of serious pointers for Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber and Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus to consider before they can confirm whether last year's World Cup winners take part in the competition, along with Australia, Argentina and New Zealand.
SA Rugby boss Jurie Roux on Friday morning already cautioned the Boks' participation still needed to be confirmed. He said some "hurdles" still needed to be cleared before the Boks could defend their title in Australia and here we look at the five key factors that will probably determine whether the Boks head Down Under or not.
Travel restrictions: South Africa is still caught up in level two of lockdown restrictions and while President Cyril Ramaphosa is considering the restrictions to be eased to level one it has yet to be done and under the current regulations international sport is still restricted and international travel is still not allowed with the international borders still closed.
Training time: The Bok coach has already indicated that he is planning to hold a camp but the date and details of the camp remain unconfirmed, but should it happen Nienaber is not set to stray too far from the World Cup squad, although he should lean more towards fielding overseas players who have already played in their various competitions, like the Pro 14, the French Top 14 and the English Premiership for a few weeks.
Playing opportunities: With rugby in South Africa not having started yet, the opportunity to give the national players sufficient game time is getting less by the day. Even if the Currie Cup or a local competition got up and running, mooted to be October 10, the Bok players would only have a few games to get up to speed as they need to go into a two-week isolation period before the Championship can start.
Reputation: Nienaber stated previously he wouldn't let the Boks enter the Championship if they are under-cooked and he targeted at least five or six matches to get the players in the required shape. The Boks' reputation as the reigning World Cup champs is also at stake as well as their status as the No 1 team in the world and the current holder of the Rugby Championship trophy and Nienaber stated he won't gamble with the Boks' reputation if they are not properly prepared.
Financial implications: SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux stated recently that the Boks would probably be required to play in the Championship because of financial implications and the income they would generate from television rights would be too good to turn down. Sponsors, too, would want their pound of flesh, in an effort to save what has been a disastrous year due to Covid-19.
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