Updated: Mar 8
With the All Blacks refusing to travel to Perth ahead of their second Rugby Championship fixture, and the entire competition thrown into scheduling uncertainty, talks about the Springboks moving North have re-ignited. It is not a new concept and has been gaining momentum since Super Rugby was postponed due to the pandemic last year.
The South Africans were essentially ejected from Super Rugby and have since found their way into the newly expanded Pro14, now called The United Rugby Championship. The travel schedule, time difference, and available income in the North drew the top 4 South African franchises in. Super Rugby will be missed though and it will take a while for those new rivalries to form between the hemispheres. This is where it should end though.
The Springboks should do everything possible to remain in the Rugby Championship. The tournament is steeped in tradition and the rivalry between the Springboks and All Blacks gets everyone riled up and excited to fill out the stands in Ellis or Eden Park. Argentina have shown immense growth in the competition and Australia have started to piece themselves back together too. The Rugby Championship is the strongest international competition and this is irrefutable, the participants have all but 1 World Cup trophy between them.
If the Springboks moved North, we would see tests against England, Ireland, Scotland, France and Italy... great. But then what happens in the July incoming tour or the November outgoing tour? We would play the same nations again, or have to shake things up with games against tier 2 nations. We wouldn't be able to play the All Blacks, Australia or Argentina as regularly as they will be embarking on tours against these nations too. We may be lucky to get a fixture against just 1 of them in this time.
Whilst the All Blacks are the black sheep's of SANZAAR at the moment, making a number of self serving decisions, they are the envy of the rugby world and leaving a competition that includes them, would hurt the Springboks quality too , the old adage of steel sharpens steel rings true.
Whether the All Blacks and their supporters wish to admit it, they need the Springboks too. Should South Africa move North, they would have to look at the inclusion of one of the Pacific Island teams or Japan. Opponents on the rise, but nowhere near the level of competition the New Zealanders need to remain sharp. Many of these teams would face a similar fate to that of Italy in the 6 Nations. The All Blacks have shown Australia aren't up to it, recently winning their 19th successive Bledisloe Cup, so keeping the Springboks close by should be something they work hard to ensure too.
The Springboks need the competition that the All Blacks provide, it is the highlight of the year when these two teams face one another. I have been to a number of games between these two sides, and the atmosphere at the stadiums is just on another level, there is simply no comparison. The product South African fans crave, can't be dispensed with for the simple fact that there is more money elsewhere, sometimes what's best for the game as a whole, should win.
If it ain't broke, don't try to fix it. Whilst Super Rugby was becoming unsustainable and a bit of a predictable eye sore, South African Rugby can benefit from having the best of both worlds, in keeping a domestic foot in the Northern Hemisphere and an international one in the South. The playing style exposure for the players will reap massive benefits to the Springboks at the end of the day.