Rainbow Cup SA: Half a stale loaf is better than nothing at all
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AT one point there was the possibility of South Africa’s Rainbow Cup teams basing themselves in Croatia – the players wouldn’t have minded a resort on the sunny Adriatic Sea one bit — such was the range of options the organisers exhausted before finally admitting defeat.
No fewer than 16 venues across the UK, Ireland, Europe, and even the Middle East were considered as base camps for our teams but all were ultimately kicked into touch by a persistent pandemic, and one that on a sporting level has sentenced South African teams to pariah status.
Of course everybody was desperate to see intercontinental rugby competition, especially governing rugby bodies close to perishing from lack of broadcasting revenue, but also coaches and players growing stale from playing each other again and again.
One example is the Sharks and the Bulls, who by the time they have played each other home and away in Rainbow Cup SA, would have squared up to each other seven times post the end of the hard lockdown.
They played each in the SuperFan Saturday warm-up and also the Currie Cup final, and none of their fixtures were cancelled because of Covid-19 outbreaks, as was the case with the Stormers and Sharks, who had a couple of fixtures called off.
In Europe, it is a similar situation, with Irish fans, for instance, complaining that Munster and Leinster have played each other six times in the last six months.
The need for freshness and a cross-pollination of ideas is why the Rainbow Cup bosses fought until the last minute to make it happen, but now that it hasn’t, the sooner all stakeholders accept the situation the better.
Lest we remind ourselves that for six months we had no rugby at all, so half a (stale) loaf is better than none at all …
South African rugby has to quickly accept the fact that the first foreign opposition our players will encounter since the World Cup final 18 months ago will be the British and Irish Lions in July (unless SA Rugby can miraculously lure a second-tier country to play warm-ups against the Boks).
At least Bok bosses Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber know exactly where they stand now and they can finalise their preparations for the Lions. Nothing else matters in rugby this year, and they can set up their alignment camps in the knowledge that most of their resources will now be in this country right up until the arrival of the Lions.
They also will be comforted that the balance of the Boks — those based in Europe and Japan — are playing in various competitions and nobody is going to be short of match practice.
Uncertainty is stressful but it is now over, and while South African rugby has not got the outcome it wanted, there can still be a pot of gold at the end of the Rainbow this year if all involved immediately embrace that most hackneyed of modern sayings: “It is what it is.”