- A South African exit from Super Rugby would be “sad”, says Stormers coach John Dobson.
- Dobson is worried what an absence of competition will mean for the Springboks’ preparations for the 2021 British & Irish Lions series.
- Stormers players have been “split” on the possibility of no longer playing in the tournament.
South Africa’s rugby future – domestically and internationally – remains uncertain.
The participation of the Springboks in this year’s Rugby Championship, scheduled to take place in New Zealand in November, is not yet confirmed as South Africa continues its fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
More significantly, the participation of the South African franchises in next year’s Super Rugby competition is also hanging in the balance after New Zealand Rugby confirmed plans to enter all five of its franchises into a new-look version of that tournament that does not include sides from South Africa and Argentina.
It leaves SA Rugby with a lot of work to do in mapping the way forward, with a potential move of the country’s franchises to the northern hemisphere to join and extend the current PRO14 now considered a strong possibility.
It could spell the end of South Africa’s participation in Super Rugby and, addressing media in a video press conference on Thursday, Stormers coach John Dobson revealed that conversations with his players had revealed somewhat of a “split” in feelings over a potential exit from the tournament.
One Springbok told Dobson that South Africa had been trying to ‘copy’ the New Zealand style for far too long and that a move up north would make sense, while another argued that playing the Kiwi sides remained the ultimate test of quality.
Dobson, himself, understands that a move to European competition could be the new reality, but he believes that not playing against the New Zealand sides would have an impact on the South African game and coaching while he also has concerns over what the absence of Super Rugby would mean for the Springboks’ preparations for next year’s British and Irish Lions series in July.
“It might be a bit of opportunism to use the travel thing to throw the whole of Super Rugby out, which is being used by New Zealand and Australia, but it is probably a reality for 2021,” he said.
“Personally, I would be sad to see it (Super Rugby) go. I think our players like it.
“What worries me, and I’m very happy to go north if all the arguments make sense, is what happens to us until August next year until the Lions come.
“If we play a domestic competition now and it ends in December and then we go into a PRO14 or whatever it will be in August 2021, what will we do up until the Lions tour?
“Do we go into another domestic competition and what does that look like given we have just done the same thing this year?
“It’s a far bigger question, but I think how practically we get there will be the challenge.”
Dobson has been paying close attention to New Zealand’s Super Rugby Aotearoa event.
“They can punish you so hard so quickly if you’re not on top of your game,” he said.
“In the northern hemisphere you can grind it out and you know what you’re getting, but all of us are probably following after New Zealand.
“The changes taking place at the breakdown are staggering in their domestic competition and it’s going to change how we train the breakdown.
“If we’re not playing them, we’re going to have to be disciplined and learn from them.
“It’s one thing studying a video, but it’s another thing knowing you’ve got to play the guys on Saturday. It’s an element we could be missing out on if we’re not part of that tournament.”
– Compiled by Lloyd Burnard