South Africa’s participation in the southern hemisphere’s Rugby Championship was thrown into more doubt Wednesday as the 2020 World Cup winners’ departure for Australia was delayed for a further 48 hours.
Coach Jacques Nienaber has voiced concerns over his players’ match fitness after a lengthy coronavirus-enforced break.
With the added complications of travelling to host country Australia which has strict quarantine rules, organisers are battling to have the defending Rugby Championship winners participate.
They had set a Wednesday deadline for South Africa to finish negotiations and confirm they would line up in the four-nation Test championship beginning next month.
But after a last-ditch teleconference between the sport’s governing bodies in South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Argentina, organisers indicated no deal had been reached and they gave South Africa Rugby “an additional 48 hours to finalise its internal stakeholder discussions.”
“This will now delay the scheduled departure of the Springboks from South Africa to Australia,” governing body Sanzaar said.
Competitive rugby resumed in South Africa only last weekend after a six-month suspension triggered by Covid-19.
Nienaber has said he would not favour competing at Test level unless his chosen players had been involved in a minimum of six matches.
That looks impossible given that South Africa’s first fixture against Argentina is scheduled for November 7 in Brisbane.
“Sanzaar will provide an update on the resolution of these discussions and a timetable for the Springboks participation in The Rugby Championship when available in the coming days,” the governing body added.
The Rugby Championship was created in 2012 when Argentina joined a competition previously called the Tri Nations.