Cash-strapped Rugby Australia remains furious with South Africa for pulling out of the Rugby Championship and admits the Springboks’ no-show will cost it – and all SANZAAR’s competing nations – millions of dollars.
South Africa’s governing body only announced last Friday it was withdrawing, just two weeks before the tournament kicks off.
The world champions’ absence has forced SANZAAR into reverting to a Tri Nations tournament featuring Australia, New Zealand and Argentina, with the original 12-match competition reduced in to six games.
It’s been speculated that South Africa will forego 50 million rand ($A4.3 million) for not fronting up.
“The financial loss for them will be great,” Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan said on Wednesday.
But the Springboks’ scratching will also seriously impact RA’s finances.
Even before COVID-19 struck and wiped out the entire Super Rugby season, forcing RA to lay off more than 40 per cent of its staff and slash players’ wages, the governing body forecast a loss of some $9 million for the 2019-20 financial year.
Leaking more money because of South Africa’s doing is the last thing RA needs.
“It will cost us quite a lot of money but we’ll find a way through it,” McLennan said.
“We were surprised because South Africa did agree to the tournament scheduling.
“So we’re disappointed that they pulled out but we’ll just have to move on.”
McLennan all but ruled out RA seeking compensation from their South African counterparts.
“It is what it is. We’ll just all have to deal with it,” he said.
“We’ll just find a way to deal with it. It’s very tough for all sports in Australia through COVID.
“We’ve proven so far that we’re a pretty resilient organisation and we’ll just make it work.”
South Africa sighted “player safety”, having missed months of rugby, as the reason for not coming to Australia, which is hosting the entire tournament.
“Our view’s different to theirs. We think we’ve given them ample time to prepare for the Tests. We thought it would be good,” McLennan said.
“We’ve already got the Argentinians out here at the moment, and they’re quite satisfied with how their preparation will go.
“But, to be honest, we’re very disappointed that they’re not turning up.
“They agreed to the tournament so we expected them to turn up. I think it would have been great for their game.
“We hear on the grapevine their players wanted to play.”
McLennan pointed out it will be 20 months between Tests for the Springboks by the time the touring British and Irish Lions arrive in South Africa next year.
Asked if he expected the next Wallabies versus Springboks Test to contain extra spice, McLennan said: “I think there will be, also with the All Blacks and the South Africans too.”
However, the RA chairman didn’t believe the Springboks’ non-appearance suggested in any way that South Africa wanted out of SANZAAR and Super Rugby – when it returns to normal after COVID-19.
He reaffirmed RA’s preferred Super Rugby model for 2021 was a trans-Tasman competition featuring New Zealand, if not just another domestic tournament involving only the five Australian sides.
“We’ll be better players if we play Kiwi sides week in, week out and I think the broadcasters want that as well, and the fans,” McLennan said.
“There’s no stumbling block from our side so it’s really up to New Zealand – what they want to do.”