World Cup-holders South Africa have confirmed they will not participate in the 2020 Rugby Championship in Australia, thereby throwing yet another curve ball in the Test calendar which will see the return of the Tri-Nations.
Their withdrawal at the last minute - Argentina have already arrived in Sydney ahead of the tournament that was due to start on October 31 - is a massive blow for each of the respective unions.
Be there for the third Bledisloe Cup clash at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium, Saturday 31 October. Tickets HERE
"SANZAAR and Rugby Australia have bent over backwards to make the tournament happen and it would have been unfair on them and their partners and state government to delay a decision any longer," South African Rugby CEO Jurie Roux said.
"This is a hugely disappointing outcome for supporters and commercial partners but the on-going impacts of the pandemic in multiple dispensations mean we are unable to deliver a Springbok team without seriously compromising player welfare, apart from other logistical challenges.”
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Their exit could signal the end of the SANZAAR alliance, with South Africa's Super Rugby teams to join Europe.
SANZAAR CEO Andy Marinos was naturally disappointed with the outcome, but said that the return to the Tri-Nations format was an exciting alternative.
“COVID is just a gift that keeps on giving," he said.
"Naturally, it is extremely disappointing that the Springboks, due to the continued complexities of operating in and around this COVID environment, cannot fully compete in the previously planned six-round Rugby Championship. That said this now presents us with a unique opportunity, in this our 25th year, to close off 2020 with a SANZAR Tri Nations Competition.”
“SANZAAR recognises the challenges and adversity that the national unions have had to face this year due to the pandemic. It is a tribute to the Unions in how they have been able to adapt and,
dependent on COVID restrictions, run domestic competitions with the exception of Argentina, who has been impacted the hardest through their lockdown.
LISTEN UP! Wallabies half-back Nic White joins host Nick McArdle, former Australian fullback Greg Martin and RUGBY.com.au journalist Christy Doran on The Rugby Nation to dissect Bledisloe I and look ahead to Eden Park
The first two matches involving Australia and New Zealand double up as the final two Bledisloe Cup series matches.
Tickets for the 2020 Tri-Nations will go on sale to the general public at 1 pm AEDT on Thursday 22 October. For pre-sale access, sign up at Team.Rugby.
Tri-Nations Match Schedule
October 31: Australia v New Zealand (ANZ Stadium, Sydney)
November 7: Australia v New Zealand (Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane)
November 14: New Zealand v Argentina (Bankwest Stadium, Sydney)
November 21: Argentina v Australia (McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle)
November 28: Argentina v New Zealand (McDonald Jones Stadium