Let’s shelve talk of Boks joining the Six Nations, says RW’s Tom English
Rugby Rant: No to South Africa joining Six Nations
For South Africa, it makes a whole lot of sense. For reasons of travel, finance and the pursuit of something new and exciting, the Six Nations is a better bet for the Springboks than the Rugby Championship.
You can see why Rassie Erasmus and chums are talking it up and you can see why the unions on this side of the world have contemplated it. The wage inflation in rugby is vast and the game has become hideously expensive. South African TV money? Interesting. A revised championship with the world’s most compelling rugby nation involved? Hello, Netflix. Hello, Amazon. Hello any other telecoms behemoth with cash to invest.
So, ditch Italy to make way for the Boks? Sacrificing them at the altar of the South Africans would kill the sport there. Keep them in and make it a Seven Nations? More Tests. We actually have too many as it is. In the summer, England are heading to Australia, Ireland to New Zealand, Wales to South Africa, Scotland to Argentina. They’ll have played 11 or 12 Tests each by the year’s end. Virtually one a month.
If you see the game principally through a fiscal prism then all of this might make sense. But an expanded Six Nations is a monumentally bad idea and this writer, for one, wishes the South Africa idea would go away, never to return. But it will. Again and again and again.
South Africa joining the championship is a bad idea not because we don’t love games against South Africa but because we do. We want to preserve the fixture, not flog it to death. We don’t want to shoehorn it into the already crowded northern hemisphere schedule just for the sake of money, but that’s what this is about. Revenue. And it’s understandable.
Professional rugby is a 600-pound gorilla that needs constant feeding. As it is, the best play the best too often. The goose that lays the golden egg hasn’t been killed, but the poor thing is under threat. There’s too much flogging going on in rugby – of players being asked to play too many Tests, of fans who are asked to stump up ever bigger sums to follow their country. Everybody would love a trip to Cape Town, but how many could afford the time and the cash to get there? An away fixture in South Africa with precious few travelling fans isn’t a true Six Nations occasion.
Are we slaves to tradition? To an extent, yes. There’s nothing wrong with that. Not if the tradition is worth it. And this one is. We love you, South Africa, but let’s keep our distance and let the relative absence make the heart grow fonder.
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