South Africa commit to Rugby Championship for next decade

Speculation of move to join Six Nations ends as Sanzaar revises 10-year strategic plan

Sanzaar chief executive  Andy Marinos. Photograph: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Sanzaar chief executive Andy Marinos. Photograph: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

 

South Africa have reaffirmed their commitment to the Rugby Championship for the next decade, organisers Sanzaar said on Wednesday, bringing an end to speculation the world champions may look to join the Six Nations.

Sanzaar said the four-nation alliance, which also includes New Zealand, Australia and Argentina, would be restructured and a “revised” 10-year strategic plan would include “future growth and expansion” for the Rugby Championship.

“The re-commitment by the four unions to the long term future of the international game is an important start as we embark in a new direction,” Sanzaar chief executive Andy Marinos said.

“The disruption during 2020 has been significant, however, despite the numerous setbacks and the inherent complexity of our vast geographical expanse, we have managed to keep the game alive.”

Sanzaar faced turmoil this year due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, with New Zealand at odds with South Africa and Australia over the future of the club-based Super Rugby competition.

South Africa Rugby withdrew its four teams from any future Super Rugby competition in September and said they would look to join the Pro 14.

They then withdrew the world champion Springboks from the Rugby Championship, which is currently being played as the Tri-Nations in Australia.

Although SA Rugby said player welfare concerns were behind the late withdrawal, the decision came as a surprise to the other nations and triggered fears over the future of the Sanzaar alliance.

Sanzaar said the Rugby Championship would be restructured with the current home-and-away format replaced by a “mini-tour” schedule when a nation will host a rival for two matches one season and play a double-header away the following year.

SA Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux welcomed the changes to the showpiece competition.

“We are looking forward to see what the new strategic plan for the competition entails, with possible international expansion on the cards,” he said in a statement.

“Although we had to change our domestic focus, we still have a long history with the All Blacks and Wallabies as well as a long-standing friendship with the Pumas, and we look forward to more world class test rugby.”

Japan, who reached the quarter-finals of the last World Cup, and the Pacific island nations, particularly Fiji, have previously been mooted as possible additions to the competition.

Sanzaar also said more changes would be announced in coming weeks and months, with domestic club and provincial tournaments also set for a restructure.

New Zealand, Australia and South Africa were forced to organise domestic Super Rugby competitions this year due to the pandemic, and with travel restrictions likely to remain in place they may have to do so again in 2021.

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