Will South Africa Participate In The Rugby Championship?
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After months of uncertainty, it seems as though there is finally some good news for rugby fans, especially those in South Africa. This year’s Rugby Championship, scheduled to be held in Australia, looks set to go ahead after being postponed due to the ongoing pandemic, and it is still possible that the South African rugby team will participate in it as well.
SANZAAR, which is the governing body for the Championship and consists of the national rugby governing bodies of the four participating countries – South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Argentina, gave South Africa an additional 48 hours last week to decide whether to participate in this year’s edition. However, it is being reported that the Springboks will decide to withdraw, due to the South African government’s travel restrictions, as well as concerns over player welfare and safety in the prevailing climate. Thus, this is likely to mean that the tournament reverts to its Tri-Nations format seen in previous years, with the three remaining teams playing each other twice over six weekends.
The tournament has already been hit due to the pandemic, with the original dates being moved November 2020 due to the pandemic. The format has also been changed, with all matches taking place in Australia rather than in the competing countries, once again due to the travel and quarantine restrictions and rules in place in those countries at the moment. The decision of the South African team to potentially withdraw will be met with a degree of support by Springbok fans, since they have barely had any practice or training for the past six months or so, and thus would have arrived woefully underprepared for the tournament in any case.
During this period, when most sporting events across the world were suspended or postponed, there had actually been a rise in the number of online rugby tournaments, as fans looked for ways to keep themselves occupied and entertained. One of these was based on fan popularity, with teams receiving votes through social media and then moving on to the next round based on which team got the most votes. This was part of a general trend where online entertainment saw a lot of traffic and interest, with people having to stay indoors for their own safety.
Many online mediums saw a lot of growth, with even live casino online seeing many people try their hand at online gambling, as physical casinos were largely closed all over the world. This is just one example to show how entertainment options on the internet helped people during this pandemic, and they continue to do so now as well, even as restrictions are lifted in many parts of the world.
In terms of the Championship, it is important to note that rugby only restarted some three weeks or so ago in South Africa, after a six-month hiatus, and so the players will need more time to get up to the fitness levels required to compete at international standard again. However, it is also true that the governing body for South African rugby, SA Rugby, has been hit hard by the pandemic, like nearly every other sports body across the world, and is thus in dire need of funds. Participating in the Championship would give it a windfall of R300 million, or A$ 25 million, and so it is likely that the sporting concerns will be weighed along with the commercial considerations of not participating when a decision is arrived at. Nevertheless, it seems as though we may see a Tri-Nations tournament instead of the usual four nations competing every year, and that in itself could be a welcome change to the format to bring fans back to rugby after a long break.