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No home tests for Springboks as SA Rugby explores competition options

South Africa's flanker Siya Kolisi passes the ball beside England's Anthony Watson during the 2019 Rugby World Cup final (Photo by ODD ANDERSEN/AFP via Getty Images)

Jurie Roux, chief executive of the SA Rugby national governing body, has confirmed that the men’s national team will not play any home Tests in 2020 as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The world champions had been due to host Scotland and Georgia this month but both matches were cancelled due to the pandemic. The Springboks had also been due to host matches in the Rugby Championship, which includes matches against Argentina, Australia and New Zealand, in August and September.

South Africa had over 373,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 by late Monday, with 5,173 deaths.

Sanzaar, the umbrella body of the South African, New Zealand, Australian and Argentinian rugby unions, last week identified New Zealand as the preferred destination for the 2020 Rugby Championship and Roux has admitted that it could be possible for South Africa to play abroad before the end of the year.

Andy Marinos, chief executive of Sanzaar, had previously suggested that the national team tournament could run from October to December, providing travel and health restrictions can support an eight-week competition window.

The Rugby Championship is currently scheduled to run from August 8 to September 27, with Australia vs New Zealand in Melbourne pencilled in as the opening fixture. However, the escalating Covid-19 situation in the state of Victoria means there is little chance of this happening.

Roux also said that SA Rugby is in talks over a potential tour of Europe for the Springboks but it appears that the body will make a choice between this and participation in the Rugby Championship. Roux added that an eight-team domestic competition could commence in late August or early September to prepare players for any international matches that are scheduled.

“Whatever we can fit into that window we will and we are trying to deliver the Rugby Championship, which would almost certainly be in the bubble in New Zealand,” Roux said.

“If we do that there will be no time for other internationals, and in any case the northern hemisphere has been clear that they want to complete the Six Nations and then play a tournament with Japan and Fiji in that period.”

The future of Sanzaar’s Super Rugby club competition has also been debated in recent weeks, with Australia and New Zealand having commenced their own domestic tournaments. Last week, New Zealand Rugby effectively put an end to the current format for Super Rugby after announcing plans for a new eight to 10-team competition that will exclude teams from South Africa and Argentina.

Commenting on the current status of Super Rugby, Roux said: “There is a legal and binding agreement with the Sanzaar alliance, and anyone in breach of that would put themselves in a position to be held liable. We have not been kicked out of Super Rugby. If anything, New Zealand kicked themselves out of it.”