It would be no surprise to see some creative thinking come into play from the Springboks’ upper hierarchy to ensure the team is prepared for the 2021 British & Irish Lions tour, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
It seems unfathomable that the world champions will play no Test rugby in 2020. After the triumphant highs of 2019, there will be an immense degree of frustration that the Springboks were denied the opportunity to ride the wave of World Cup momentum.
Yet, for an array of very good rugby reasons, SA Rugby took the completely understandable decision to withdraw the Springboks from Rugby Championship participation.
As SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux put it on Friday: ‘All we can do now is enjoy our domestic competitions and find ways to be ready for the arrival of the British & Irish Lions in 2021.’
The good news is that one of the byproducts that has come out of this pandemic-disrupted year has been the heightened communication and collaboration between SA Rugby and the franchises.
In a time of crisis, there has been little option but for all parties to work together in search of solutions for the greater good of the game’s survival.
Make no mistake, there have been some casualties along the way – none more so than the demise of the Kings – but some seriously tough decisions have had to be made in order to negotiate these unprecedented times.
There has also been some innovative thinking, with the introduction of a unique draft pick system prior to a ‘Springbok Showdown’ trials match.
Then there was the formation of a double-round local competition, which satisfies the Super Rugby stakeholders before transitioning into the Currie Cup.
Some more nifty problem solving will be required when it comes to finding the means for the Springboks to be suitably prepared for the arrival of the British & Irish Lions next year.
This is now the big carrot at the end of the stick, and there is no doubt that director of rugby Rassie Erasmus and coach Jacques Nienaber will have spent plenty of time considering alternative means to get the Boks match ready.
This could very easily see the Springboks look to lure a touring team to South African shores in the first half of next year, with USA coach Gary Gold having already said he’s reached out to SA Rugby to express a potential willingness for the Americans to come across.
And although the recent Springbok trials match was a rather scrappy affair as players returned to action after such an extended break, why not repeat this concept in the lead-up to next year’s Lions series?
Consider how enjoyable it would be to watch a three-match Springbok Showdown series when players are match fit and desperate to impress ahead of the Lions tour. Not to mention if the Bok coaches were able to include some first-choice overseas-based players.
Then factor in the enduring hope that some fans could be able to return to the stadiums by next year, and the spectacle suddenly looks a whole lot more appealing.
Now that the Springboks are out of the Rugby Championship, some out-of-the-box thinking will be required in a national context, but this year has already shown that SA Rugby is capable of making some big decisions and finding solutions in challenging circumstances.