Rumours have swirled that the Springboks might join the Six Nations. But would such a move be cause for celebration or dismay? Read this debate from our May 2020 issue

Should South Africa join the Six Nations?

JON CARDINELLI
Chief writer of SA Rugby magazine

“The Six Nations is rugby’s premier annual tournament. There is, however, reason to believe that the inclusion of another traditional powerhouse will strengthen the final product.

The Springboks are three-time world champions. They haven’t lost a home series against a northern hemisphere side since the Lions toured in 1997. Their record in the pro era indicates that they know how to prevail in challenging European conditions.

It’s fair to say that the Springboks’ inclusion would not dilute the championship, whether it is a six- or seven-team tournament.

SA Rugby took its first step into the northern hemisphere when it entered two of its franchises, Cheetahs and Southern Kings, into an expanded Pro14 competition in 2017. It’s believed more franchises will follow suit, and that we could mega clashes such as Leinster against the Bulls or Sharks in future.

Ulster v Cheetahs

Foot in the door: the Cheetahs, a South African franchise, are already playing regularly in Europe (Inpho)

Ultimately, South African rugby may find itself in a situation where the majority of its elite players are competing in the European tournaments – either for South African or European clubs – and working towards representing the Boks in the Seven Nations.

Rumours of South Africa‘s move to the North have prompted questions about the future of rugby in the South. It may be easy to walk away from a Super Rugby tournament that has lost its shine. It won’t be so easy to turn away from an annual match-up against New Zealand that is important both commercially and to supporters.”

SARAH MOCKFORD
Editor of Rugby World

“There has long been talk of South Africa aligning with European rugby. We’ve seen two South African sides join the Pro14, but the Springboks in the Six (or, as is rumoured, Seven) Nations? This throws up more problems than solutions.

The mooted change is to expand the championship rather than have the Boks replace, say, Italy. That would mean playing an extra six Tests – two more weekends. How do you fit them into an already hideously congested calendar?

Some would say slot them into the fallow weeks, but there are major travel implications. South Africa may be in a similar time zone to Europe but flying there is very different to the short-haul flights currently involved. And that’s before you bring altitude into the mix.

Keep the fallow weeks and there’s the knock-on effect on the club game, with star players absent for yet more domestic fixtures.

Six Nations fans in Cardiff

Collateral damage? Fans would need deep pockets to travel to South Africa for a Six Nations fixture (Getty)

And what of the fans? A trip to South Africa is much more expensive than a day trip between Cardiff and Dublin for one. How many supporters – the traditional lifeblood of this championship – will be able to afford to travel to see their team face the Boks?

There’s only so much rugby that players can play and that supporters can support. The proposal is another example of possible financial gains being put ahead of player welfare. And that’s before you consider how South Africa cutting ties with their southern hemisphere foes could affect the world game…”

Should South Africa join the Six Nations? Let us know what you think. Email your views to rugbyworldletters@ti-media.com

This debate appeared in the May 2020 issue of Rugby World.