Director of rugby Rassie Erasmus has made it clear that it remains the ultimate ambition for SA Rugby’s top sides to play at Europe’s highest level.
While preparations for the upcoming Rainbow Cup are ongoing, Erasmus poured water over recent suggestions in the UK’s Sunday Times that the competition would be used as a pathway for South African sides to qualify for the European Champions Cup and Challenge Cup competitions.
Erasmus stressed that it is the PRO16 competition (not the Rainbow Cup) which kicks off later this year that will function as the route to Europe for South Africa’s top four teams.
In an interview with the Irish Independent, Erasmus was unequivocal about his desire for South Africa’s teams to play in Europe.
‘It is definitely the ambition. I’m not sure what the decision-makers think about that and if and when they will do that, but certainly, we would try to get our franchise teams to the highest level.
‘However, the first step is obviously to try and be competitive in the Pro16.’
When pressed on the recent signing of second rower Jason Jenkins by Munster (the Limerick-based side Erasmus previously coached), Erasmus chose to see the positive perspective.
‘Look, for South Africa, it’s great because he [Jenkins] is in a great high-performance program. They [Munster] are paying his salary and he can play [international rugby] for us.’
Jenkins currently has one Bok cap to his name; it came in Rassie Erasmus’ first game in charge against Wales back in 2018.
On the subject of the British & Irish Lions Tour, Erasmus said that planning was well underway.
‘If it is going to be behind closed doors, what we can and can’t do will probably be guided by the government and we will follow that strictly. But we are fully preparing to play them here [South Africa] now.’