Rugby Australia expects South Africa to remain committed to SANZAAR and The Rugby Championship next year and beyond despite the world champions pulling out of this year’s tournament, costing their partners millions of dollars in crucial revenue.
Speculation has been rife in recent weeks that South Africa will defect to the northern hemisphere in 2021 – they’ve already agreed to field their Super Rugby teams in European competitions – and that was further fuelled after Friday’s confirmation they won’t play in this year’s TRC due to player welfare concerns.
The late withdrawal will cost RA, New Zealand Rugby and Argentina millions in lost revenue, with broadcasters originally promised six weeks of double-header Tests that will now be a three-nation tournament of weekly one-off games.
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Aussie fans won’t get to see the world champions this year.Source:Getty Images
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RA is also expected to have their government funding scaled back, given Tourism Australia had invested millions for the original proposal involving all four nations.
However, RA chief executive Rob Clarke believes South Africa will not jump north next year, and says the SANZAAR partnership will continue.
“South Africa has committed to The Rugby Championship and the SANZAAR joint venture at that level, and I don’t anticipate that changing, I’ve heard nothing to the contrary,” Clarke said.
“All of us around the joint venture table have committed to The Rugby Championship, this isn’t a normal year, the circumstances are abnormal, and therefore that has led to the decision that has been made for this year.
“But South Africa has expressed overtly its commitment to TRC into the future, as have New Zealand, Argentina and ourselves.
“I would expect this would come back, COVID pending, bigger and better next year.”
Clarke was frustrated by the late notice given by the Springboks, who had been given the option of playing only the final four games of TRC to give their players extra time to prepare at home in a last-ditch effort.
“I would have thought rugby players want to play rugby, and this was going to be like a mini World Cup with double headers that have never been played before in the Test arena,” Clarke said.
“I would have thought there was a lot of excitement and anticipation from the South African players to want to be involved. Their organisation has made their decision and it’s outside our control.
“A bit more notice would have been welcome, there’s no doubt about that.
“But I know how difficult these things are, even planning our own Super Rugby tournament this year.”
Clarke could not say if the SANZAAR partners would seek financial compensation from South Africa over the withdrawal.
“We haven’t gone that far, at this point in time we’re focusing on creating a Tri Nations tournament and that’s our complete focus,’ Clarke said.
“How any other actions that might result from this take place, that’s for another time.”
The Wallabies and All Blacks will be getting sick of the sight of each other shortly.Source:Getty Images
RA is now negotiating with broadcast partners Fox Sports and Network Ten, as well as Tourism NSW and the Queensland government in attempting to limit the financial damage.
“We’re working our way through that, clearly it has financial implications, a lot of our modelling was done on a full Rugby Championship with double-headers, and now we model a six-week tournament with three teams involved, the broadcast implications of that are still to be worked through,” Clarke said.
“We’re anticipating a very successful tournament. Our budgeting for this tournament, even though South Africa are not here, has still been very conservative.
“The governments here have been outstanding in being flexible and understanding of us trying to get as much fan engagement through this process, so the crowd limits we have hopefully will continue to allow us to make a good return.
“And now, that return will be shared by three parties rather than four, so I’m not overly concerned by the financial exposure here.
“We’ve still got work to do, clearly, and not a lot of time, but it focuses the mind and I think we’ll come out all right at the end of it.”
South African Rugby CEO, Jurie Roux, said: “SANZAAR and Rugby Australia have bent over backwards to make the tournament happen and it would have been unfair on them and their partners and state government to delay a decision any longer.
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“This is a hugely disappointing outcome for supporters and commercial partners but the on-going impacts of the pandemic in multiple dispensations mean we are unable to deliver a Springbok team without seriously compromising player welfare, apart from other logistical challenges.”
Originally published asAussies left in lurch as world champs pull the plug
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