Crunch-time for Rugby Champs

Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber will know in the next day or two whether his team will be in action in the Rugby Championships later this year. Picture: EPA

It is understood that a decision on whether the competition will go ahead – either in Australia or New Zealand – will be made in the next two days

D-day is apparently here for the Springboks and the 2020 Rugby Championship. Firstly, will the competition take place and, if it does, where will it be staged?

The location of the Championship – pushed out from earlier this year when the spread of Covid-19 suspended all sport across the world – has become a hotly debated topic Down Under with both New Zealand and Australia mentioned as possible hubs to host the Championship.

Sanzaar officials will meet on Thursday to discuss whether the Championship should proceed as initially planned, while on Friday a decision will have to be made about which country should be handed the opportunity to host the four teams.

While several overseas Springboks have returned to action – in the UK and France – the local competition has yet to get underway and if it only starts on October 10 the Bok players will only have about eight to 10 days before departing Down Under if SA Rugby and the Bok management decide to participate in the Championship.

Initially, New Zealand were the favourites to host the competition after they were able to initially contain the virus and were actually declared virus-free at one stage, but following a spate of new positive cases, it was reported in recent days that Australia have emerged as the new favourites to put on the tournament.

It is now understood that the state of Queensland could play host, with Brisbane as the base.

The shortened version of the Championship is due to be held from November 7 to December 12, but visiting teams like South Africa and Argentina would have to undergo a 14-day isolation period before the tournament can commence.

There are also doubts around Argentina’s participation after six of their squad members tested positive last weekend and are currently in isolation.

New All Black coach Ian Foster named a 35-man squad a few days ago and said, like all rugby fans, the team was waiting for the All Blacks schedule to be finalised, with Sanzaar to confirm the Test programme in due course.

“Like everyone else, we’re impatient to know what is happening, but we fully understand all the variables at play and we remain confident that there’ll be something for fans to look forward to in the not-too-distant future.”

Foster said, in the meantime, the All Blacks would return to their Mitre 10 Cup provincial sides for the opening weekend of New Zealand’s premier domestic competition.

“Our players are really excited to be playing for their provinces and this will be a great competition for fans to enjoy over the next few months.”

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