Playing in European club competitions is more complex for SA teams than it first appeared, but they will become more competitive with increased exposure, writes MARK KEOHANE.
Writing for TimesLIVE, Keohane highlights the challenges of managing twin campaigns in the EPCR tournaments, especially compared to nearly three decades in Super Rugby, with the five South African franchises facing logistical difficulties and balancing multiple tournaments.
Keohane acknowledges the rewards but points out the unique factors, including weather, travel, and different pitches, making South Africa’s entry into European rugby a challenging minefield.
He notes the upcoming changes with direct flights and highlights the current travel burden, emphasising the players’ focus on adjusting to playing in two hemispheres, while also recognises the significance of squad depth and strategic mix-and-match decisions for coaches navigating demanding schedules.
“There are so many factors that make South Africa’s entry into European rugby three seasons ago a minefield,” Keohane writes.
“Super Rugby travel was difficult for the South African teams because they invariably toured for a month and played four successive matches in New Zealand and Australia, with Japan and Argentina adding to the away travel. But it was just one flight, and the players flew business class.
“Now because of the early compromises and financial sacrifices that had to be made to get South Africa into the URC and Europe, the SA teams fly economy class and fly via Dubai and Doha because of a flight sponsorship deal with Qatar.
“The commercial gains of South Africa playing in Europe cannot be overstated… but right now one can only have empathy for those pioneer players and coaches who are still on a voyage of discovery.”
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