SA Rugby should explore the possibility of the Boks competing in the Rugby Championship and a ‘Seven Nations’ tournament, writes former Springbok captain Jean de Villiers in the latest issue of SA Rugby magazine.
There’s been a lot of debate around the possibility of the Springboks joining an ‘Seven Nations’ tournament – alongside England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales – when the next broadcast deal expires in 2026. The idea has been shot down by a lot of officials and critics in both hemispheres.
I’ve been fascinated by the debate. Why shouldn’t we consider creative ideas that have the potential to boost and improve the global product? While there is value in tradition, we need to ensure the game does not stagnate and that exciting opportunities such as these are duly explored.
From a South African point of view, I would like to see SA Rugby putting South Africa’s interests first. Whether they decide to move north or remain committed to Sanzaar, they must consider what is best for South African rugby in the long run.
If the Boks can add value to an expanded tournament, why shouldn’t they join the party? If the move will benefit SA Rugby and the players from a financial point of view, and if there is a healthy South African support base in the UK and Europe, why shouldn’t SA Rugby give the move serious consideration?
A lot of people have suggested South Africa would have to cut ties with Sanzaar to join a ‘Seven Nations’ tournament. I don’t see why South Africa would have to pull the Boks from the Rugby Championship or all its teams from the Super Rugby competition.
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The Boks could compete in a Seven Nations during the months of February and March, and then feature in the Rugby Championship later in the year. With regards to the franchises, South Africa already has two teams – the Cheetahs and Kings – competing in the Pro 14. Perhaps another South African team should join them. Perhaps it’s possible to have three South African teams competing in the northern hemisphere and three more in a streamlined Super Rugby tournament.
SA Rugby finds itself in a strong position now that the Boks are world champions and the world’s No 1-ranked team. The organisation has an opportunity to take South African rugby forward over the next few years. It would be great to see SA Rugby making decisions that really benefit South Africa.
I’m not suggesting SA Rugby burn bridges with their existing partners. The relationship between South Africa and New Zealand, for one, has always been strong – and long may it continue. I’m advocating that South Africa enjoys the best of both worlds. If there is any chance we can realise that ambition, and ultimately boost the local game and administration on several levels, the powers that be must take it.
SA Rugby must put South Africa first. As our world ranking suggests, we shouldn’t be settling for anything less than the best.
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