The Roar
The Roar



The quick questions: Blame games and compensation claims

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21st October, 2020
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They were in and they were committed right up until the point they suddenly weren’t. South Africa’s sudden and dramatic withdrawal from the Rugby Championship has resulted in yet another schedule change and with it the relaunch of an old competition name.

The fallout, at least at an unofficial level, has seen all kind of barbs thrown in the direction of the South African Rugby Union. Our page views thank you all for venting as many of you have, though the servers need a spell.

But what about official sanctions? Should there even be any? Or is there a bit of understanding around SARU’s rational in what has been a year like no other?

Fortunately, we know people willing to give this some thought.

Question 1

The Springboks decision to withdraw from the Rugby Championship has rocked the partnership, and now potential compensation is being discussed behind closed doors, if not in publicly. The question is: are the remaining SANZAAR nations within their rights to ask the SARU to make up the difference in lost revenue?

South Africa are the world champions and have the Lions tour in 2021. With the few minutes of rugby played by their players this year and the lack of preparation they have had against the players that represent the All Blacks and the Wallabies, it would be a disadvantage and would put the medals and future income they deserve for the title at risk.

The issue of the players who play in Europe is not a good excuse since Los Pumas already dispatched 13 players from that continent on Monday.

Los Pumas have nothing to lose and any type of competition will be good for them even if they lose all the games, and I would encourage you to say that both the All Blacks and the Wallabies will present B teams when they face them.

Malcolm Marx battles the Wallabies.

(Jono Searle/Getty Images)

I suppose they are, but it’s difficult to fully understand without being in the thick of it.

If they are entitled to request this, why were SARU given or allowed a final date (and extension) to confirm their participation? Was everyone just being really nice?

Does ‘500 minutes’ refer to match readiness or note-taking? Where do the 500 minutes come from? Is it purely for Test match readiness? How do we ever get out of the preseason, or is it a different number for Super Rugby, like 300 minutes, or club rugby, which can range from zero to 80 minutes?

In New Zealand it seems to work the other way, where 500 minutes can be too many minutes before playing Test rugby. (The Kremlin likes to move this number around once the latest ‘sport science’ is reported.)

It all brings me back to the note-taking, informally of course, but are they still relevant minutes? SANZAAR and Mickey Mouse would get along like a house on fire, so such eventualities should not be of surprise, even when they still are.

I should note down that the conclusion to this point is no-one knows or has what the perfect number of, or copy of, minutes should be or look like.

Springboks flyhalf Handre Pollard

(Photo by Mark Tantrum/Getty Images)



Nobody breached a material term of an enforceable, non-voidable contract, absent evidence the 500-minute standard was arbitrary or capricious.

And in any case, SARU should be permitted to present an offset argument for decades of floating the boat.

Maybe the Rugby AU and New Zealand Rugby Union owe SARU for that horrible 2011 quarter-final?

To answer that question would require SANZAAR to fill in a few of the blanks – perhaps some detail on the process, transparency around what was agreed to and said by whom, the timeline and an account of what transpired when things started to go awry. But given how poor SANZAAR’s communication is when things are going well, they’re hardly about to air their dirty linen now just so frustrated fans can remind them what a confounding organisation they are.

Which leaves everyone to guess. In which case, justified in protecting their legacy or not, South Africa didn’t make every effort to compete and ensure that the expected broadcast revenue for all nations would be forthcoming. Unless of course if the magic ‘500 hours’ criteria were agreed to by all nations prior. It wasn’t, so yes, they owe their partners one. A big one.

Cobus Reinach

(Christiaan Kotze/AFP/Getty Images)

Without knowing the ins and outs of whatever was signed between the four parties it’s impossible to answer that question.


That said, one can’t imagine South Africa putting themselves in a position where withdrawing would result in them signing cheques to the other three nations.

That, however, doesn’t mean Australia, New Zealand and Argentina aren’t within their rights to feel hard done by here. The Boks’ withdrawal has hurt everyone else hard in the hip pocket, has turned what would have been a veritable feast of a rugby tournament into a mere drip feed and came too late for a replacement to be flown in.

They can certainly ask for it, and they may well even be entitled to some form of compensation.

If playing The Rugby Championship as designed was going to result in the broadcasters paying the full amounts due under the terms of the contracts, then in 2020 of all years heaven and earth should have been moved to ensure it was played as designed.

It’s not like any of the national unions are exactly flush with funds or that they’ve been putting money away for a rainy day, never mind a global pandemic.

But South Africa will argue they have provided adequate reasoning for not coming. And even if they wanted to come, they might not have been able to anyway. If the rapid rise in the number of positive COVID tests among athletes in Europe doesn’t show how quickly things change, then the four cases among the Lions squad in Johannesburg sure as hell does.

The difference should be made up in an ideal world. But I think we all know this is far from an ideal world.


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Question 2

And if compensation is something the partners are entitled to, what is the most appropriate method of payment? Send an invoice now or hold back and redistribute an amount from future SANZAAR earnings?

In order to answer these questions it is necessary to see the contracts signed with TV and others involved with this tournament, since I am sure precautions were taken in the case of not being able to play or any of the teams travelling.

Perhaps the compensation is contemplated and even South Africa could get to charge something also without even travelling.


Cash. US currency, please. Money, money, money.

Cashflow is important to all unions right now, so if a debt is owed, it needs to be paid. But if SARU simply does not have the funds (which is my conclusion), then it’s a bit of a pickle. A bit like loaning money to family – it can all get a bit iffy.

Given the likely windfall of SARU’s Lions tour, it makes sense that any compensation agreed to can be processed after that tour – assuming everyone can make do until then of course, and also assuming that the tour actually eventuates.

There are a lot of assumptions, but I prefer those assumptions to assuming there will be future SANZAAR earnings. (Re SANZAAR, refer ‘Mickey Mouse’ above.)


(Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)

The other unions should pay SARU in something more valuable than Rand: doubloons, guineas, drachma, francs, lira. Maybe zloty.

Reparations will consist of two parts.

Firstly, RG Snyman will be flown to Auckland, be strapped to a chair, pinned other than his left shoulder exposed and a team of local rugby league gorillas, hand-picked by Brodie Retallick, will take turns to try to separate his shoulder and arm from the rest of his body.

Secondly, Bryce Lawrence will be encouraged out of retirement to referee all three South Africa versus Lions Test matches next year.

One would suppose that future SANZAAR earnings rely on there being future SANZAAR tournaments. That seems some way off.

In lieu of them, a cheque, a wad of cash or a truckload of five-cent pieces would all nicely suffice. If not forthcoming, the Springboks should be forced to dance for Los Pumas so they get at least some entertainment from their trip to Australia. They won’t be getting much on the field now.

Docking future SANZAAR earnings would probably be the logical method, and it might even be the method South Africa insist on given they are currently in the process of impacting future SANZAAR earnings directly.

The issue is going to be that any sanctions are going to be pretty hard to impose. For one thing, SANZAAR can’t even agree on who should cater for their long lunches without unanimous agreement. Without agreement the status quo remains. They’ve been using the same Italian deli in Bondi Junction for 25 years for this very reason.

And on the off-chance sanctions could be agreed to, if at any point up to actually handing over the corporate credit card SARU think the sanction is too much, they’ll just refuse to pay.

And then what? Legal action? Expulsion from the partnership? Exile to some other multinational rugby partnership?

Careful what you wish for.