Super Rugby withdrawal symptoms in the Covid-19 pandemic
JOHANNESBURG - If you thought South Africa's current strife with rugby-related matters was unilateral, well then you will be displeased to know, we are not the only ones suffering.
Discontent is brewing in the Home Unions, especially among the English clubs, about the British & Irish Lions tour and the need for a training camp in the next fortnight. In that period, the Premiership clubs will be in the thick of their play-offs, and there seems to be genuine annoyance that those teams will refuse to release their players for the camp, and the subsequent warm-up Test against Japan.
Lions coach Warren Gatland has threatened that such action will have a negative impact on the selection of English players, while the Premiership clubs are peeved that their best players won't be available for their biggest matches, and that the sheen of their final will be diminished by a Test on the same weekend.
According to The Guardian, the Lions are cash-strapped due to the impact of Covid-19, and the financial promises that were made to players in 2017 cannot be realised.
In South Africa, it is a dire situation as well. SA Rugby is also feeling the pinch, and the uncertainty of the the Rainbow Cup is not helping either. Saru have calculated that under normal conditions, the Lions tour could generate around R6-billion for the country's economy. The biggest immediate concern is the Rainbow Cup.
It is set to start next weekend with three rounds of SA derbies, but after that there is still no guarantee that it will continue. The Brits are worried that any interaction with SA could reintroduce Covid-19 there, and have denied visas to the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers.
The non-continuation of the tournament after those fixtures would be a massive blow for the Springboks' preparation. The recent release of Lions skipper Elton Jantjies to play for French club Pau speaks to that fear. The franchises will know their fate in a week or so when the ProRugby Board meets to make a final decision.
The biggest take-away for me from all this is what a big part
Super Rugby played in the SA rugby landscape. It might be superfluous to admit now, and you never miss something until it's gone, but it cannot be denied that the country's franchise system cannot operate on its own island.
SA Rugby has done a stellar job to keep the candle burning, but I must admit, I am not looking forward to the opening SA derbies to be played next weekend.
It's the sameness that is boring me now – an admission of how spoilt we all were in previous seasons.
At least there will be a bigger picture and context to the matches.
All my fingers and toes are crossed that the Rainbow Cup will come to full fruition because, as the absence of Super Rugby has shown, hell, I desperately need it.