SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux says it would have seriously compromised player welfare if the Springboks had participated in the Rugby Championship.
On Friday, the expected news was finally confirmed when Sanzaar announced that the Springboks had officially withdrawn from participation in this year’s competition.
The South African-based portion of what was a 46-player squad was scheduled to fly from Johannesburg on Sunday. However, government regulations as currently drafted meant it was unclear whether the team would legally be able to depart.
In addition, mounting concerns relating to player welfare, were a major concern.
‘With time essentially having run out, it left us with no option,’ said Roux.
‘This is a hugely disappointing outcome for our supporters and commercial partners but the on-going impacts of the pandemic in multiple dispensations means we are unable to deliver a Springbok team without seriously compromising player welfare.
‘Sanzaar and Rugby Australia have bent over backwards to make the tournament happen and it would have been unfair on them, their partners and state government to delay a decision any longer.”
Roux said that the local challenges were compounded by the fact that the 24 overseas based players, who had been identified for potential selection (depending on COVID-19 status) and for whom visas had been applied, were based with European or Japanese clubs.
‘Players in England, Ireland, France and Japan are subject to differing local regulations and travel protocols and potentially imminent renewed lockdowns in some territories,’ he said.
‘It was unclear when they would be able to become functioning members of the Springbok squad in Australia.
‘We understand that public safety concerns come first and there’s no way that we could expect short cuts to be found to get them out of their host countries and into the Springbok bubble.
‘But the impact on our planning was profound and took us to a bottom line that we could not in fairness commit to being able to compete.’
SA Rugby consulted with MyPlayers – the players’ representative body – who supported the decision.