It’s been speculated for quite some time that the Springboks are eventually set to join an expanded Six Nations. Towards the end of 2020, the Sanzaar governing body stated that the Boks would play in the Rugby Championship until at least 2030 as part of a new 10-year plan, but it was confirmed earlier this year that any “commitment” now only runs to 2025.
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In fact, SA Rugby already told their Sanzaar partners last year that they were “exploring their options” as a move to the Six Nations appears to be just a matter of time.
South Africa’s four leading franchises – the Bulls, Sharks, Stormers and Lions – have already headed into northern hemisphere competition with the start of the United Rugby Championship.
Eben Etzebeth, who is currently plying his trade with French side Toulon, but who will soon be joining the Sharks, has suggested it would make sense for the Boks to join the Six Nations.
“I think the Six Nations would be good for us,” the lock said on the Rugby Roots programme.
“Obviously, it just makes sense with us playing in the URC at the moment against the same competition.
“Maybe we could have a full June series against New Zealand, play in the Six Nations and then have an end of year tour in Australia or Argentina.
“I would love to join the Six Nations, but I would also love to still play those other teams as well. Maybe they (World Rugby) can get a good balance.
“At the end of the day, for me, it’s just about playing for South Africa.”
SA director of rugby Rassie Erasmus also believes there would be a number of benefits if the Springboks were to join the Six Nations
In an exclusive interview with the Daily Mail, Erasmus was asked for his opinion about the Springboks perhaps eventually moving into the Six Nations, with some reports suggesting the prospective change is strongly supported by investors CVC, and which looks most likely to happen in 2025.
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“Just remember, this is purely my own personal opinion. I don’t need to get myself into any more trouble! I’ve always been a massive fan of the Six Nations. Murrayfield is awesome, the Aviva is awesome, Twickenham is awesome. I love the atmospheres and their rich tradition of singing,” Erasmus commented.
“Speaking from the South African side of the fence, I would love to see the Springboks in the Six Nations. The style of play, the travel and the time zones would all suit South Africa.
“You could fly in overnight on Thursday, play on a Saturday and fly back on Sunday. It would be easy. When we go to Australia or New Zealand, you wake up at 2am and don’t know what day it is!
“We are locked in with the Rugby Championship until 2025, so for now it is still hypothetical. Just please don’t mistake this for me saying the Rugby Championship is bad. I love New Zealand, I love Australia and I love Argentina. Gus Pichot is a legend.
“If someone with proper research showed me that South Africa joining the Six Nations would make the Rugby Championship weaker and damage the growth of the global game, then we shouldn’t do it. But right now, speaking as a South African, I think joining the Six Nations would be awesome.”
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The Sanzaar partnership has appeared to be increasingly strained over the last couple of years, with cracks appearing ever since New Zealand were seen to have unilaterally decided that they would be leaving Super Rugby after the pandemic threw the competition into disarray.
Some reports have suggested this dramatic move could take place straight after the 2023 World Cup, but Sanzaar have reiterated that NZ Rugby, Rugby Australia, SA Rugby and Argentina Rugby had all committed to the Rugby Championship until 2025, in line with existing broadcast agreements.
Morris also noted that the financial impact of Covid-19 made it necessary for all unions to consider what competition structures best suited them commercially.
“Where is the Rugby Championship going? Are we looking at expanding? Are we looking at staying the same? Are there potential window opportunities to align with the global season?
“Some of that work now needs to come in and that’s why it’s great the joint-venture partners are all committed to 2025, and looking at what the future is.
“I don’t think we should read too much into, ‘all bets are off, South Africa are exploring their options’.
“It’s about sitting down with them, and all the partners, and saying, OK we had a vision until 2030 with Super Rugby and the Rugby Championship, we now need to amend that vision’.”
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