Rainbow Cup under threat

The planned PRO14 Rainbow Cup, due to commence in two weeks’ time, is in jeopardy.

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The word from South Africa’s rugby franchises is that they were told to suspend their Visa applications last Friday on the advice that the Rainbow Cup will in all likelihood not be going ahead.

SARugbymag.co.za has compiled a comprehensive set of information from several sources, and the unfortunate sentiment is that there is increasing concern that South Africa’s leading franchises will not receive the necessary clearance to travel abroad.

South Africa’s four franchises were due to base themselves in Bristol, England for the duration of the ‘away’ leg of the Rainbow Cup. The English government, however, has reportedly struck a hammer blow against those plans by denying travel permission to SA’s players.

While travel assurances have allegedly been granted by a number of other governments in an effort to facilitate the competition going ahead, the Bristol base remains problematic in the eyes of the English government.

However, one source did indicate that if certain obstacles could be overcome, there could be still be a glimmer of hope for South Africa’s team to receive the green light for the ‘away’ leg to go ahead.

As it is, the first three rounds were set to involve domestic derbies, and the overwhelming – albeit fast-fading – hope is that challenges that have recently arisen could be overcome while the derby games go ahead.

Should the Rainbow Cup be off it would place South African rugby in a precarious position. The loss of broadcast revenue from the lucrative overseas market would serve to poleaxe already stretched finances.

It could even result in fears that players and management could be forced to take another round of pay cuts, with all the associated knock-on impacts.

The Rainbow Cup was also meant to function as an important strategic exercise in the ongoing preparation for the upcoming British and Irish Lions Series. These preparations would be similarly severely impacted by the cancellation of the tournament.

In the absence of the Rainbow Cup, SA’s teams could have little option but to compete in yet another domestic tournament. It would be the fourth such competition this year.

Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images