The Springboks and All Blacks 100th Test showdown could be played in front of 80 000 at Twickenham. How incredible would that be to celebrate the centenary Test between two of the game’s superpowers at the home of rugby, writes Mark Keohane.
SANZAAR’s executive is in discussions about whether to move the remaining Rugby Championship matches to Brisbane, Australia, to South Africa or to the United Kingdom and possibly even Paris in France.
New Zealand has closed its international borders because of a Covid outbreak and the scheduled two Test matches between the All Blacks and Springboks, to be played in Dunedin on 25th September and Auckland on the 2nd October, have been moved to Perth in Western Australia.
Perth is experiencing a Covid outbreak, as is most of Australia and there is uncertainty as to the lockdown and quarantine status of teams travelling to Australia. South Africa, as just proven with the British & Irish Lions eight-match tour, is more than capable of hosting the rest of the tournament.
However, any matches played in South Africa, would still be played without crowds.
SA Rugby lost so much commercially during the Lions tours and playing the Rugby Championship in London, Cardiff, Dublin and Paris, as has been reported in the UK Media, would ensure that these matches are played to capacity crowds.
Selfishly, from a South African supporter perspective, the time zones also make for ideal Saturday afternoon viewing. SuperSport, as a broadcaster, would no doubt back the matches being taken to the UK and Europe.
The SA Rugby leadership confirmed to Keo.co.za that all three options of Australia, South Africa and UK/Europe were being discussed and a decision would be made in the next 48-72 hours.
Personally, the prospect of the Springboks and the All Blacks playing that 100th Test match with 80 000 roaring on both teams in a venue as neutral as London’s Twickenham, would do the occasion such justice.
There are so many South Africans and Kiwis living in London that the match would be a sell-out.
The world champion Springboks and All Blacks are the world’s top two ranked teams and, with such intense discussion about the contrasting styles of the two teams, having the match play out at a neutral venue in front of a capacity crowd would be an occasion scripted by the rugby gods.
The two teams first played each other in Dunedin, New Zealand, in 1921.
In the history of the 99 Tests, South Africa has won just one series in New Zealand, in 1937, and the All Blacks have one just once in the Republic in a series, in 1996. Both teams have won the Rugby World Cup a record three times and the two have only ever met in the final of a World Cup once, with the Springboks winning 15-12 in extra time in South Africa in 1995.
SA Rugby Magazine on Thursday reported that South Africa and surprise venues in Europe have been reportedly touted as alternative options for hosting Rugby Championship matches following renewed Covid-19 concerns in Australia and New Zealand.
Initially, fresh doubts were recently cast over Rugby Championship matches, including those involving the Springboks, being able to take place in Perth.
After the match against Argentina at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium this weekend, the Boks were set to head to Australia, with the most recent expectation being that all four of their overseas matches could be played in Perth.
However, on Wednesday, Western Australia premier Mark McGowan cast doubts over the prospect of Perth hosting such fixtures, with New Zealanders flying into Perth currently having to serve a two-week quarantine period.
Meanwhile, New Zealand has been placed in a national lockdown as a coronavirus cluster grew to 21, with a strong link discovered to a case at the border, apparently related to a Sydney flight.
Sanzaar are now escalating contingency planning to determine where the remaining Rugby Championship matches could be played.
One option is said to possibly even be a consideration of relocating the matches to South Africa, where the British & Irish Lions tour was just successfully hosted behind closed doors.
However, such travel requirements would seem unlikely to be approved by New Zealand and Australia.
It’s now been reported by RugbyPass that Sanzaar are even weighing up shifting the Rugby Championship to Europe for the remainder of the competition, with double-headers potentially being planned for Paris, London, Dublin and Cardiff.
Reports suggest it could be possible to travel from New Zealand and Australia to the UK via Singapore without any isolating or quarantine required upon arrival in Europe.
Such a relocation would mark the first time that a Tri-Nations or Rugby Championship match took place outside of the Sanzaar countries, but it does offer significant commercial appeal and the potential for fans to attend the matches.
It has also been reported that Queensland could become another alternative option, with Rugby Australia reported to have been in talks with government to move most of the remaining Rugby Championships games to the northeast state.