‘Six scenarios’ for remainder of Rugby Championship

Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber said he would welcome the rest of the coronavirus-hit Rugby Championship being played in South Africa.

Speaking after South Africa’s 29-10 second-round win over Argentina at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth), Nienaber said the Springboks were “ready to play anywhere”.

But he said he would “love” to play the rest of his team’s fixtures at home following SA Rugby’s offer to host the remainder of the tournament.

The fixtures were thrown into disarray on Friday when New Zealand pulled out of an away game against Australia, scheduled for Perth next Saturday, because of new Covid-19 restrictions.

New Zealand have also said they cannot host either Argentina or South Africa, both of whom were due to play there twice.

“It would be good for our country,” said Nienaber. “We just came through a British and Irish Lions series.

“South Africa showed that in a pandemic they can host a tournament that is the next biggest thing to a World Cup.

“South Africa is ready. We’ve got the protocols in place and we’ve got everything lined up. But we’ll play anywhere we have to. We’ve got six scenarios ready and when the decision is made, we’ll put it into action.”

Other possibilities include moving the remaining nine matches to other Australian venues or to Europe, with speculation that Cardiff, Dublin, London and Paris could stage double-headers.

Both Nienaber and captain Siya Kolisi said they did not know what was in store over the coming weeks following the cancellation of their planned flight to Australia on Sunday because of the Covid situation.

“This game was important to us and that has been our focus. We’ll probably find out later in the week. Other than that I know nothing,” said Kolisi.

It’s believed that Brisbane remains a more likely alternative as a host venue, while heading to UK and Europe is still an option on the table.

A decision is expected in the next 48 hours.

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Craig Lewis