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Sport

South African Rugby tight-lipped on Bok withdrawal from Rugby Championship

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - South African Rugby says a final decision on their participation in the Rugby Championship will only be communicated on Friday as a report in New Zealand suggested they have already given notice of their intention to withdraw from this year’s competition.

An SA Rugby statement on Thursday did not deny the veracity of the report, instead suggesting the final decision would be communicated by organisers SANZAAR on Friday.

“An SA Rugby spokesperson said that speculation in the media that the Springboks were to be withdrawn from the Rugby Championship have been noted,” the statement read.

“However, it would make no comment on the reports until SANZAAR had updated all stakeholders through official channels, which was expect to be on Friday, Oct. 16.”

The New Zealand Herald have suggested the decision has already been made, and that the competition will now feature only Australia, New Zealand and Argentina, a financial blow to all four countries.

The Springboks have cited player welfare and the need for government approval as sticking points in taking part in the competition.

Should their withdrawal be confirmed, they face going into next July’s British & Irish Lions series on home soil having played little or no tests since their victory in the 2019 Rugby World Cup final against England last November.

South Africa’s long and hard COVID-19 lockdown means the country’s leading players were sidelined from competitive action between mid-March and the start of the domestic season this past weekend.

Team officials have suggested they will need at least 500 minutes of competitive rugby before they can take part in the Rugby Championship, with all but their overseas-based players well short of this.

It was hoped a compromise by SANZAAR to allow the Boks to enter the competition at the halfway point, giving players greater preparation time, might ease those concerns.

If the Boks do participate, then the need to quarantine in host country Australia for 14 days before their scheduled opener against Argentina in Nov. 7 means they are in a race again time to board the plane.

Reporting by Nick Said; Editing by Christian Radnedge

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