Rugby Championship to be played in New Zealand

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Jul 22, 2020, 21:06

The following from News 24:-

World Rugby has proposed a revised international calendar for 2020 with the Rugby Championship to be played between 7 November and 12 December in New Zealand.

A window for the completion of international fixtures in the northern hemisphere including the Six Nations has also been proposed. 

These fixtures will take place between 24 October and 5 December.

The organization confirmed in a statement on their website that these dates were determined "following extensive and productive consultation between World Rugby, international competitions, national unions, their professional club competitions and international rugby players."

"The rescheduling of the domestic, European and international calendars will accommodate the ability for the professional clubs to have access to their star southern hemisphere international players for the completion of the postponed and rescheduled 2019/20 seasons at a time in which they would have ordinarily been on international duty in August and September.

"The recommendation to temporarily change the Regulation 9 windows will be tabled at a virtual meeting of the World Rugby Council on 30 July. Subject to approval, the full schedule of matches will be announced by the respective union and international competition owners in due course. The current Regulation 9 windows will return to normal after 13 December.

"All parties remain committed to continued dialogue regarding long-term men’s and women’s calendar reform that harmonises the international and club environments for the betterment of all," the statement concluded.

The tests being played in New Zealand will have serious problems for SA.   The SA players will have very little or even no game time for more than eight months and it is not clear whether they would be allowed full training by September,    The only way they would be allowed to train would be if they are flown out to New Zealand three weeks or so before the Championship.    One can only assume that in the period there will only be 3 tests played by each side like normally happened om WC years,  

What is not clear from the statement is what will happen to the EOY test program.   Will that also be played in New Zealand?         

Jul 23, 2020, 02:25

This is confusing. Does it mean that SA and Australia teams will live in New Zealand during the tournament- say 5 weeks for example? 

Is the year-end tour cancelled-  to the UK, France and Ireland by Southern Hemisphere teams?

So the 6 nations will go ahead, but that is usually in January/Feb. 

Jul 23, 2020, 13:00

That is why I was confused too.   I think the possibility of having the EOYT matches also in New Zealand may be considered.   That is why I believe the test season will only end by 13 December 2020. 

Mallett is talking constantly now  about everything,  One was hoping that clarification will be provided sooner rather than later - the following are just complicating the issue/  See what happens when idiots talk too much,   The private owners of the clubs where Meyer and Coetzee used to coach found that the two were destroying the clubs they were supposed to coach.  They lost millions in the process and the result was inevitable - both got fired.  

However, read the following to get more confused:-

Back in early June, Jurie Roux confirmed that SA Rugby was in discussions with various equity partners.

The revelation by the federation's CEO, at the time, was welcomed, but there was also a sense that the local rugby community was a bit blasé about it.

South Africa had just emerged from a hard lockdown and everyone just needed to hear that the sport - whether the money was big or not - was still attractive enough for potential investors. 

On Tuesday, Roux was back in the thick of things because July's environment differs fundamentally from the one in June.

Within five weeks, South African rugby's future during and after the Covid-19 pandemic has become more stark.

The change that was mere talk is now being walked.

New Zealand Rugby essentially wants to go it alone.

Super Rugby, in its current form, won't exist in 2021 owing to continued coronavirus restrictions and might, frankly, be dead anyway.

Meanwhile, Roux says "he wouldn't be doing his job" if he didn't formulate "Plan B" or "Plan C" if the current Sanzaar alliance does collapse.

Suddenly, the optimism of June has been replaced by fear because, hell, things are actually happening.

South African rugby knows that the professional game can't exist in the next few years without private investment.

The Cheetahs and Southern Kings, in particular, will be aware of that after CVC Capital Partners brought a 28% stake worth R2.5 billion in the PRO14, a kitty they can't share in because SA Rugby isn't a shareholder of the tournament.

That doesn't mean there won't be fear and loathing.

Already, some Cheetahs figures are worried that the franchise will be kicked out of the PRO14 so that the Super Rugby franchises can join an expanded PRO16.

Smaller unions, despite unanimously deciding not to play the Currie Cup First Division to save costs, still hammer on about their survival and exclusion.

Equity partners won't swallow everything up

The reality is that when SA Rugby does sign up an equity partner, the firm or firms won't just swoop in and change everything.

"I think equity partners won't initially have much (influence on competition structures)," said Roux.

"Most private equity transactions that take place now all over the world normally enter in a current arrangement. We are at a unique stretch at the moment that most deals that were in place for the next five years are basically off or everyone is in breach."

In other words, the Covid-19 pandemic could indeed significantly speed up rugby countries' changing course simply because the economic challenges of the virus means parties aren't as worried about legal agreements being broken.

"Having said that, their influence normally comes over time in terms of development of your commercial models. With all of the equity transactions that I know of and the information at my disposal, they have a minority stake in commercial rights. Obviously that can influence your commercial decisions," said Roux.

What South Africa's rather amateur-driven unions need to understand is that they still - through SA Rugby's general council - control their rugby fate.

All that private equity is doing is helping in trying to eliminate unnecessary politicking.

"The rugby decisions in almost all of those deals sits with a separate committee. The holders are still the unions and federations. They make those rugby decisions," said Roux.

"However, when you get to those decisions and the commercial value for a six-team Currie Cup is R100m and politically people want to have a 12-team Currie Cup and you get R10m from that, the decision becomes very easy.

"That's how equity partners would influence competition decisions. But they still don't have the veto of how you play your competitions or how you run the business of rugby."

Be wary of team-based investment

Instead, it would seem that private investment in individual unions or franchises is an issue more worthy of debate.

Johann Rupert and Patrice Motsepe's equal, 37.5% interest in the Bulls is an example of shareholding that brings with it stability and even progress.

Altmann Allers, the Lions' majority shareholder, has also generally tried to not blur the line between guidance and interference.

Unfortunately, the beleaguered Southern Kings were the victims of private ownership gone wrong.

Interestingly, the demise of the Greatest Rugby Company in the Whole Wide World (GRC), the Kings' previous majority shareholder, also illustrates how private ownership in South African rugby must take the country's socio-political context into account.

That, former Springbok coach Nick Mallett, believes could be one of the biggest initial challenges.

"South Africa is a special situation because of our political background," he told a webinar hosted by PSG earlier this week.

"We need transformed teams. If you do get private, even foreign investment coming in, those parties have to be hands-off. They can't come in and say you have to play that player or that player by threatening to withdraw their investment.

"Often, people who own teams in Europe, want to have their say in rugby matters like selection. Yes, it's their money, but not their area of expertise. A guy who made his money building electricity pylons can't pick the tighthead prop. Leave it to your rugby staff, don't interfere.

"As the Springboks have proven, that we can have transformed teams that are successful with the right coaches and culture."   

I do not think that Rupert and Motsepe  would invest in a did team and they were the ones who decided on White and they will ultimately approve the contracts,   Nobiody at SARU will be brave enough to defy those two.        

Jul 24, 2020, 12:04

This is the latest info on the RC for 2020 from a Springbok perspective:-

Springbok head coach Jacques Nienaber faces a plethora of challenges in readying his charges for a now likely, full Rugby Championship title defence in New Zealand toward the end of the year.

World Rugby’s approval this week for a window - in one country - for the annual tournament from early November to mid-December at least means the new mastermind, who has kicked his heels for several months due to the coronavirus havoc on rugby, has a fresh target to aim for.

Intended mid-year home Tests against Scotland (two) and Georgia were scuppered.

Even South Africa’s domestic return to play stays shrouded in uncertainty as Covid-19 cases continue to rise in several regions of the country ... but Nienaber faces further, notable fog to his international planning with the unfavourable status of Japanese-based Springboks.

Of the victorious Bok squad at RWC 2019, half a dozen are currently contracted to clubs in Japan: Jesse Kriel (Canon Eagles), Makazole Mapimpi (NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes), Franco Mostert (Honda Heat), Willie le Roux (Toyota Verblitz), Malcolm Marx (Shining Arcs) and Kwagga Smith (Yamaha Jubilo).

Two of them - Le Roux and Mapimpi - started the World Cup showpiece match against England, while Mostert and Marx were “Bomb Squad” substitutes that memorable day.

Unlike most existing, frontline Bok players, that group have no scheduled competitive play in the period leading up to the Rugby Championship.

English- or Irish-based players like Faf de Klerk, Lood de Jager, Vincent Koch, Damian de Allende and RG Snyman will be returning to play in mid-August, and others contracted to French clubs like Handre Pollard and Cheslin Kolbe shortly enough afterwards.

Then there is the hope, albeit still a fragile one, that an SA domestic event (whether a Currie Cup or “mini-Super Rugby”) will be able to start in late August or early September.

But the Japan-based Boks are stuck in a situation where the last version of the Top League was cancelled earlier this year and a new campaign only begins in January, albeit with pre-season matches intended for December.

That means any of Nienaber’s intended players from there will be going in “cold” to the Rugby Championship after no rugby for many months.

“It’s not ideal that they won’t be exposed to rugby (in the interim period); I am actually speaking to them this afternoon and will address that challenge,” Nienaber told Sport24 on Thursday.

“But they are among the various Bok players who are in constant communication with our strength and conditioning people.

“Five of them are in South Africa right now. Only Franco is still in the UK (after ending his Gloucester deal - Sport24) and what we hope is that their clubs will allow them to train for a while with a South African franchise.

“But there are other deal-breakers, like the fact that their contracts must be insured, and also whether our franchises will be willing to have them train even while knowing they’re not involved on the playing side.”

Nienaber is hopeful that someone like Mapimpi, one of the individual stars of the World Cup final, will be able to hook up reasonably seamlessly with Sharks training, given that he is effectively on a sabbatical to Japan and expected to rejoin the Sharks from next April anyway.

He stressed that the six would face no selection prejudice on the grounds that they will have been dormant in match-play by the time the Championship comes around.

“They are not guys who struggle with athleticism. Besides, we had a global meeting in lockdown with all the players ... they all know in these uncertain times that the biggest way not be deselected would be to maintain strong conditioning (standards).

Jul 26, 2020, 10:01

A further view on the RC if held in NZ from News:24:-

Will a Springbok head coach ever have had a harsher baptism in the role?

That is something to contemplate following the revelation this week that World Rugby has approved a 7 November to 12 December window for the Rugby Championship to be held in a single country - highly likely to be the currently coronavirus-free New Zealand.

When he was confirmed as World Cup 2019-winning Rassie Erasmus’s successor in the role in late January, Jacques Nienaber would already have been envisaging a more traditional mid-year Bok kick-off, with useful home Tests against strictly moderate powers Scotland (two) and an additional one against first-time visitors to these shores Georgia.

They are ranked ninth and 12th respectively on the planet.

Instead, the pandemic would soon enough be wreaking havoc with both Super Rugby-proper, suspended in March and never resurfacing in fullest mode, and that trio of scuppered Bok assignments.

Now Nienaber looks highly likely to begin his much-delayed tenure in about as taxing a climate as you can think of: a full six weeks of fixtures (two each) against major southern hemisphere rivals New Zealand, Australia and Argentina.

What’s more, it seems destined to entirely be on the soil of an All Black team desperate to return to the top of the pile after the Boks stripped them of the Webb Ellis Cup for the first time since 2011 late last year in Japan.

Although this may apply to all the sides in the annual tournament, an early November start to the Championship will mean the world champions have not played as a unit since the RWC final against England on 2 November… a few days more than a year previously, by then.

Only making the task tougher is the likelihood, unless there is a sudden new Covid-19 spike in the Land of the Long White Cloud, that spectators will be present: a serious fillip for Sam Cane and company particularly when they tackle traditionally premier rivals the Boks.

Just another glaring advantage – though rugby fans in all the competing countries will be delighted to simply see their favourites in action again – for New Zealand will be the huge head-start their players have enjoyed in a return to competitive play through the ongoing, enthralling Super Rugby Aotearoa.

South Africa’s return to either a Currie Cup or "mini-Super Rugby" of their own remains several weeks away and still shrouded in some doubt.

The whole situation begs a further question: would the Boks winning (and thus retaining) the Rugby Championship wholly on NZ turf be a tougher task than even winning the last World Cup was?

Some might wish to instantly pooh-pooh that idea, just on the grounds of RWC being the loftiest, most coveted stage of them all for global importance.

But think a little more deeply, after comparing rosters.

The Springboks’ route to a third World Cup success in Japan came in this sequence: New Zealand, Namibia, Italy, Canada (all pool phase), Japan (quarter-final), Wales (semi-final) and England (final).

That presented a generous period, after the group-opening defeat to the All Blacks, where the Boks played several teams in a row they would always be hugely tipped to beat.

Of all those games, only one couldn’t be termed neutrally staged: the Tokyo Stadium last-eight tussle against the host nation, which they won comfortably enough 26-3.

With respect, there will be no "Canada" or "Namibia" (the sort of occasions where squad rotation/experimentation in selection is customary by the heavy favourites) when the Boks tackle the Championship… and two of those matches will effectively be away to the All Blacks with their fervent support base.

'It's a daunting task'

There is every chance, considering New Zealand’s home advantage throughout the tournament, that the Boks may need to find it within them to knock over the All Blacks in each of their two meetings to have best chance of retaining the crown.

That would simultaneously mean posting back-to-back victories against NZ away for just a third time in history.

The first occasion was on the iconic Australasian tour by Philip Nel’s "Invincibles" in 1937, when they came from 1-0 down in Wellington to beat the All Blacks 13-6 in Christchurch and 17-6 in Auckland.

It has only happened once in the professional era, albeit split between two years: the Boks won a 2008 Tri-Nations match in Dunedin 30-28 (famous for Ricky Januarie's decisive try) and then clinched the 2009 Tri-Nations title with a heart-stopping 32-29 triumph in Hamilton under John Smit’s captaincy.

"You may be right… it is a daunting task," Nienaber said in a chat with Sport24 on Thursday when asked about whether the Championship might be more difficult than RWC 2019.

"For a World Cup (trophy triumph) it is about peaking at the right time after a four-year lead-up; the Championship has a different feel and this will be a massive challenge if it is held entirely in New Zealand."



Jul 26, 2020, 10:14

Surprised it is not in Australia.
Although Paddy Obrien, Mccaw and co probably rigged it to be in New Zealand to ensure they have a home ground advantage- and the most chance of getting the IRB number 1 spot back. 

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