Springboks: NZR chief hopeful of seeing South Africa remain in the Rugby Championship

Colin Newboult

Eben Etzebeth of South Africa is tackled by Shannon Frizell of New Zealand and Scott Barrett of New Zealand during the 2022 Castle Lager Rugby Championship match between South Africa and New Zealand held at Ellis Park in Johannesburg on 13 August 2022 ©Shaun Roy/Sports Inc

New Zealand Rugby chief executive Mark Robinson believes that South Africa are likely to stay in the Rugby Championship for the foreseeable future.

There were reports that the Springboks were set to ditch the annual southern hemisphere tournament and join the Six Nations after 2025, which was quickly denied by organisers.

With the South African franchises now playing in the United Rugby Championship instead of Super Rugby, some have suggested that the next logical step is for the Boks to also align their calendar with the northern hemisphere.

However, Robinson is confident that talks have gone well and that South Africa will now remain in the Rugby Championship.

Firm commitment

“We’ve had a lot of meetings with the South Africans,” NZR’s CEO told Stuff.

“We’ve been in South Africa twice this year with the All Blacks and then with Rugby World Cup sevens, and then more recently with the World Rugby meetings.

“And certainly at this stage there seems to be a really firm commitment to carry on working with the Rugby Championship from 2026 and beyond.”

The clash between the Springboks and All Blacks is one of most eagerly anticipated internationals in the game.

They have been great rivals for years, but that annual encounter was under threat as South Africa opened up the possibility of leaving the Rugby Championship.

“There’s been work undertaken in partnership with a consultancy to look at the different possibilities available to Sanzaar as it relates to the international game,” Robinson said.

“That’s why I touched on the women’s game, A team fixtures and under 20s as possibilities for that to grow.

“That work also picks up on things like where it fits in the calendar, the format, those sorts of questions, which we’re turning our mind to as we get into the start of next year.”

There is also willingness from both the north and the south to set up a world club competition, although scheduling it in an already congested fixture list is proving difficult.

Format broadly agreed

“I seem to come into these forums and always be reasonably optimistic around a timeframe, but it will be into early part of next year before we have any real certainty,” Robinson added.

“In 2024 there’s quite a congested calendar in the northern hemisphere as it relates to major pinnacle sporting events, so that needs to be worked through.

“If it wasn’t played in the northern hemisphere, would there be an alternative venue for that either in the southern hemisphere or North America or Asia? 2025 obviously presents challenges around a Lions tour to this part of the world.

“Those are some of the considerations. There is some pretty good alignment around format, and there’s some really good work being done on the commercial model.

“But finding a place in the calendar long term in terms of what years, it is a bit of a sticking point at the moment.”

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