The Springboks have officially withdrawn from the 2020 Rugby Championship, forcing SANZAAR to change the competition to a three-team Tri-Nations with Australia, New Zealand and Argentina.
News broke last night that South Africa were on the verge of announcing their non-participation, and SANZAAR confirmed the reports at midday on Friday.
“Naturally, it is extremely disappointing that the Springboks, due to the continued complexities of operating in and around this COVID environment, cannot fully compete in the previously planned six-round Rugby Championship,” CEO Andy Marinos said.
“That said, this now presents us with a unique opportunity, in this our 25th year, to close off 2020 with a SANZAR Tri-Nations competition.”
South Africa Rugby CEO Jurie Roux trotted out the oft-repeated line about the withdrawal being made for player welfare reasons, while admitting it was a “hugely disappointing outcome”.
“SANZAAR and Rugby Australia have bent over backwards to make the tournament happen and it would have been unfair on them and their partners and state government to delay a decision any longer, Roux said.
“This is a hugely disappointing outcome for supporters and commercial partners but the on-going impacts of the pandemic in multiple dispensations mean we are unable to deliver a Springbok team without seriously compromising player welfare, apart from other logistical challenges.”
With no Springboks, the tournament has halved from a 12-match competition to just six fixtures, a change which will carry considerable financial ramifications for the three remaining nations.
Broadcasters had been sold the Rugby Championship with the promise of six consecutive Saturday evening/night double-headers, and the change in schedule will almost certainly require renegotiation with the networks.
The competition will still commence with the Wallabies versus All Blacks at ANZ Stadium on October 31, but will now finish up a week earlier than originally scheduled, with Australia versus Argentina on December 5 the final match.
October 31: Australia v New Zealand (ANZ Stadium, Sydney)
November 7: Australia v New Zealand (Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane)
November 14: New Zealand v Argentina (Bankwest Stadium, Sydney)
November 21: Argentina v Australia (McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle)
November 28: Argentina v New Zealand (McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle)
December 5: Australia v Argentina (Bankwest Stadium, Sydney)