The Springboks will not be participating in the 2020 Rugby Championship, which takes place in Australia at the end of the year.
The reigning champions were due to kick off their title-defence against Australia at Suncorp Stadium on the first weekend of November.
Springboks withdraw from Rugby Championship
However, there has been in doubt over whether the Boks would compete in the tournament and, on Friday morning, SA Rugby finally set the record straight.
The organisation raised several concerns, which have led to them withdrawing the team from this year’s edition of the competition.
One of those involves South Africa’s existing travel restrictions, which have complicated plans to send the locally-based members of the squad Down Under. Another issue cited by SA Rugby is player welfare.
“With time essentially having run out, it left us with no option,” SA Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux said in a statement. “This is a hugely disappointing outcome for our supporters and commercial partners, but the on-going impacts of the pandemic in multiple dispensations means we are unable to deliver a Springbok team without seriously compromising player welfare. “Sanzaar and Rugby Australia have bent over backwards to make the tournament happen, and it would have been unfair on them, their partners and state government to delay a decision any longer.”
On the matter of overseas-based players, the fact that they are spread out across different countries – such as England, France and Japan – would make them subject to differing protocols, with the threat of renewed lockdown imminent in some territories.
Roux said it was still not clear when those players would become “functioning” members of the squad Down Under.
Competitive rugby returned in South Africa earlier in the month, with Super Rugby Unlocked kicking off after two weekends of exhibition matches, which featured most of the players expected to be part of the Springboks plans ahead of the Test season.
Director of rugby Rassie Erasmus said the players would need at least 400 minutes of rugby to be deemed ready for internationals.
“The overseas-based players had started playing before us and they would have been getting close to that time by 7 November,” he said. “But many of those have completed their programmes or have had COVID outbreaks which has interrupted the planning. The Japanese based players haven’t played any rugby at all, while the home-based players would be well short of 400 minutes by the time of kick off.”
The Springboks’ withdrawal means that the tournament will be contested by New Zealand, Australia and Argentina.