Boks' participation in this year's Rugby Championship hanging by a thread

Siya Kolisi and Bongi Mbonambi celebrate with teammates after the match
Siya Kolisi and Bongi Mbonambi celebrate with teammates after the match
Image: REUTERS/Edgar Su

The Springboks' participation in this year's Rugby Championship is hanging by a thread.

SA Rugby indicated on Saturday that they would make a decision early this week but at the time of writing on Tuesday afternoon they had not officially committed either way.

There are many moving parts they have to deal with‚ even after they had pushed back an earlier deadline of October 10 in order to get clarification from government about the team's trip to the competition in Australia.

Government last week lifted some travel restrictions and permitted local athletes to travel abroad‚ but this may not pertain to locally-based teams.

Restrictions on international sporting participation were lifted but the opaquely worded amendments made under section 27 (2) of the Disaster Management Act of 2002 were open to interpretation.

While the amendments now gives the thumbs up to “international sport‚ arts and culture events involving countries with a low or medium Covid-19 infection and transmission rate‚” who it actually applies to is less clear.

The confusion in the legislation may have been caused by the paragraph: “only individuals who have an employment contract with a team outside the Republic may be permitted to leave the Republic in accordance with the Directions issued by the Minister of Home Affairs.”

The Springboks‚ already under pressure given their limited time to adequately prepare for their defence of the Rugby Championship crown‚ now have significant logistical hurdles to clear before they can have their passports stamped upon departure.

They have to quarantine for at least two weeks upon arrival before the start of the tournament on November 7 when they are due to play Argentina in Brisbane.

They will probably have to charter an aircraft because of the travel ban put in place by the Australian authorities.

Ordinarily the most direct route to the Australian east coast would have been on a Qantas flight to Sydney.

However‚ that airline has suspended all international flights‚ except to New Zealand until‚ the end of November.

Although Springbok participation in the event is imperative because of SA Rugby's contractual obligations‚ the team's brains trust under director of rugby Rassie Erasmus is less eager to push their charges into combat.

The Springboks will not be as well prepared as New Zealand and Australia who pretty much hit the deck running in their high quality Bledisloe Cup opener in Wellington last weekend.

Player welfare has been cited as a reason the Rugby World Cup champions and top ranked team in the world should not travel to Australia.

They perhaps have more to lose by going to Australia under prepared.

Given all the logistical hurdles that still have to be cleared‚ Erasmus may be spared the task of pulling the plug himself.

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