Springbok action is key to saving 2020 SA Rugby campaign

Commercial imperatives nonetheless dictate that the Springboks simply have to find a way to get over there and play, otherwise SA Rugby will suffer devastating financial losses. The Sanzaar competitions bring in the bulk of South African rugby's revenue, and with Super Rugby having been scrapped after just half-a-dozen rounds, it is the Rugby Championship that needs to save the broadcast deals through providing some live content. As SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux said recently, the Rugby Championship is a very expensive competition to run, but the broadcast revenues are significant enough that the commercial value compels Sanzaar to continue...
Commercial imperatives nonetheless dictate that the Springboks simply have to find a way to get over there and play, otherwise SA Rugby will suffer devastating financial losses.

The Sanzaar competitions bring in the bulk of South African rugby's revenue, and with Super Rugby having been scrapped after just half-a-dozen rounds, it is the Rugby Championship that needs to save the broadcast deals through providing some live content.

As SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux said recently, the Rugby Championship is a very expensive competition to run, but the broadcast revenues are significant enough that the commercial value compels Sanzaar to continue the event. The difference between revenue and expenses is the reason SA Rugby can use the Rugby Championship to cross-subsidise several other competitions.

One of those competitions is the Currie Cup, which used to be an event of industrial proportions in South African rugby, the envy of the world.

Sadly, SA Rugby has over the years allowed the jewel in their crown, their most valuable property after the Springboks, to fade into relative insignificance.

But the imminent demise of Super Rugby is likely to bring a resurgence in domestic competition and a Currie Cup style tournament this year is going to play a crucial role in the Springboks returning to action.

Hopefully that local action will continue to be a focus in 2021 and beyond.

Even though playing in Europe seems to be the big prize at the moment, and private equity investors in local franchises are already saying this is essential for them to get a return on their money, hopefully SA Rugby will still put energy and resources into having a strong purely local competition.

In the meantime, the top eight teams in South Africa are going to play a tournament later this year to at least get rugby back on the go locally.

Apart from providing some content for SuperSport, which pours millions into the game, those eight teams are also going to play a vital role in getting the Springboks ready for action.

With New Zealand and Australia already back playing rugby for half-a-dozen weeks and South African players realistically only returning to action in mid-September, there have been understandable concerns expressed that the Springboks are going to be on a hiding to nothing if the Rugby Championship is played this year, being so far behind in terms of preparation.

But the reality of the situation is that even if the Springboks are going to disappoint in terms of on-field results, they simply have to return to action and our television screens. It is a financial imperative. And they have played for financial reasons before, most recently when they lost to Wales in Washington in June 2018.

New Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber has said a squad of 45 players are going to have to travel to New Zealand and quarantine before entering their bio-bubble, and there have been complaints from local coaches that this will decimate their provincial squads.

As is often the case in South African rugby, the unions are going to need a reminder that they are there to serve the national cause, and any local competition this year is mostly about getting the Springboks ready for action.

Sanzaar CEO Andy Marinos certainly knows the value of the Springbok brand and last week he was stressing the importance of the SA team returning to international action before the end of the year.

As we saw at last year's World Cup, in which they were certainly underdogs, the ability to rise above the obstacles in their path is a great property of the Springboks.

"By no means will the playing field be level, but the Springbok side have a deep, steely resolve, and I know Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber will optimise whatever time they have to be as competitive as possible," Marinos said.

Nienaber says the players in the Springbok squad need at least six games beforehand in order to be able to play in the Rugby Championship.

They are unlikely to get much more than six matches unless rugby somehow resumes later this month, but they will at least be going to New Zealand feeling fresh.

In addition, there is a large gap between the Rugby Championship kicking off and the end of Super Rugby Aotearoa and Super Rugby Australia. The New Zealand competition ends on August 16, with no final, while the Australian final will be held on September 19.

Whoever handles the double-edged sword of rust versus fatigue best will have a large advantage, and I wouldn't write off the Springboks just yet.

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