DURBAN - South African rugby has woken up to the bad news that the Rainbow Cup that was to take place in April and June is almost certainly cancelled.
The Rainbow Cup, featuring the European teams that have just completed the PRO 14, was to be a one-off “bridge” competition for the Stormers, Sharks, Bulls and Lions to enter European rugby, but reported objections from the England government have jeopardised the competition, which was due to kick off April 24 and run through to a June 19 final.
The four South African former Super Rugby teams are later this year set to join the Welsh, Irish, Scottish and Italians PRO 14 teams in an expanded PRO 18.
It was reported in the UK over the weekend that the government of England had told the South African teams not to apply for visas.
Sharks CEO Eduard Coetzee on Sunday confirmed the bad news.
“We have little information at this stage, but it seems to be the case that the Rainbow Cup will be cancelled,” Coetzee said.
The first three rounds of the Rainbow Cup were to be played in South Africa, with rounds of derby games, and then the South African teams were to be based in a bio-bubble in England, and this is where the stumbling block has arisen.
It would appear that England is not prepared to risk a Covid-19 outbreak by hosting the South African franchises.
The cancellation of the Rainbow Cup would be a serious setback to the financially beleaguered SA Rugby, who were relying heavily on the income that would be earned from the overseas television rights.
Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber would also have used the Rainbow Cup to gauge the form of his players ahead of the series against the Lions.
The latest developments will doubtless also sentence the South African teams to yet another form of domestic competition.