Stick: We’d love to keep playing in SA, but up for anything

Bok assistant coach Mzwandile Stick has no doubt that South Africa could successfully host the remainder of the Rugby Championship if need be, writes CRAIG LEWIS.

On Friday, SA Rugby formally expressed a willingness host the remainder of the Rugby Championship matches in South Africa, following the cancellation of the Springboks’ scheduled fixtures in New Zealand.

This also follows the uncertainty that arose in Australia after Covid-19 concerns and stricter regulations emerged in Western Australia, where Perth was seemingly in line to host the next sequence of fixtures.

There have been reports that Queensland has been touted as an alternative, but there are understandable fears that if another snap lockdown was enforced in that part of the country the tournament would then be thrown into disarray.

South Africa, as well as venues in the UK and Europe, have now been touted as back-up options – but government approvals would still be required in all of those scenarios.

South Africa’s open borders would allow for ease of entry for the travelling teams before entering a bio-secure bubble environment as the touring British & Irish Lions successfully did for several weeks.

However, the downside would be the continued absence of fans at the stadium, although SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux said there was a complete willingness and capability to accommodate hosting the Rugby Championship if need be.

“We are now well-versed in turning on rugby Tests within the prevailing Covid restrictions and have the venues and accommodation necessary. We just need the go-ahead.”

Hosting Rugby Championship Tests in the northern hemisphere would open up new commercial opportunities, and fan attendance would be possible, but there are more stringent travel and quarantine regulations that would need to be overcome by the travelling teams.

All in all, the future of the tournament remains up in the air on the eve of the Springboks’ second Test against Argentina.

On Friday, both Stick and captain Siya Kolisi chatted to the media, with the duo insisting that the Boks weren’t looking any further ahead at this exact moment, and were simply intent on banking another successful result at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.

It was an expected and understandable view point, but Stick did say the Springboks were more than willing to adapt to any scenario presented to them after Saturday.

“We’re just grateful to have opportunity to play, it’s something we really appreciate after all the challenges that have had to be overcome. Yes, it would be nice to stay and play in South Africa, but we are game for anything, and up for any challenge. But the main focus right now as a team is to just keep ticking the correct boxes on Saturday. Then we’ll wait to see what the calls from the top are, and we will support any decision.”

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The Cape Town Stadium hosted all three Tests against the British & Irish Lions, and Stick said there was no doubt that South Africa boasted the facilities across the country to host a rescheduled Rugby Championship.

“If you look at our facilities, there are so many outstanding stadiums capable of hosting the big events. We’ve got everything that could be needed to host such a tournament, and of course it would be unfortunate if there are no supporters, but we are living in challenging times. We’d warmly welcome anyone who came here. I think we’ve got what it takes if it comes to that.”

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Craig Lewis