Australia's Jake Gordon passes the ball in the tackle of New Zealand's Sam Whitelock during the Bledisloe Cup rugby game between the All Blacks and the Wallabies in Wellington, New Zealand, Sunday, Oct.11, 2020. (Andrew Cornaga/Photosport via AP)

World champion Springboks withdraw from Rugby Championship

World champion Springboks withdraw from Rugby Championship

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — World Cup champion South Africa has withdrawn from the Rugby Championship in Australia, leaving Argentina, Australia and New Zealand to contest a tournament much diminished by its absence.

Tournament organizer, SANZAAR, which had given South Africa an additional 48 hours to confirm its intentions, announced the anticipated decision on Friday.

South Africa cited player welfare concerns because of the delayed start to its domestic competition and uncertainty over government travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic for players in South Africa and in Europe.

The Springboks had been scheduled to play Argentina in Sydney on Nov. 7, more than a year since their previous test match. South Africa is due to host the British and Irish Lions next year and might have to been without test rugby for 20 months by the time that series starts, unless new tests can be scheduled.

South Africa’s provincial Curry Cup competition only began on Oct. 10 because of the delays brought on because of the coronavirus, leaving Springboks players with little match play before the Championship.

At most, players would have had three domestic games before the team’s scheduled departure for Australia and, for most, two of those would have been informal or exhibition matches.

The Springboks’ withdrawal will cut the Rugby Championship from 12 to six matches, which still will go ahead over a six-week period with each team having at least two byes. It will also likely hit broadcasting revenue from the tournament, which will be shared among the three competing teams.

The Argentina squad is already in Australia preparing for the tournament, its preparation at home set back by a COVID-19 outbreak which affected at least 10 players and the head coach. The Pumas will also be short of match play when they face their opening test and are attempting to arrange warm-up matches against local teams.

The All Blacks and Wallabies will meet in the opening matches of the tournament in Sydney on Oct. 31 and Nov. 7, following on from their two-match Bledisloe Cup series in New Zealand.

New Zealand was also considering withdrawing from the tournament, or at least forfeiting its final match against Australia, because of a scheduling dispute. The last match initially was scheduled to be played in Sydney on Dec. 12, meaning the All Blacks players — required to quarantine for 14 days on their return to New Zealand — would still be in managed isolation on Christmas Day.

In a rancorous dispute, New Zealand claimed to have an agreement to play the tournament over five weeks with the final match on Dec. 5. SANZAAR and Rugby Australia denied any such agreement had been reached and cited minutes of a meeting which suggested New Zealand had always been aware of the Dec. 12 match.

The matter was resolved when the match was moved forward to follow on more naturally from the Bledisloe matches in New Zealand.

____

More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Steve McMorran, The Associated Press

rugby

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Eighteen inmates and four staff at Red Deer Remand Centre have tested positive for COVID-19. Advocate file photo
Red Deer Remand Centre up to 22 COVID cases

Eighteen inmates and four remand centre staff areactive COVID cases

Christine Cornelius, department manager at Parkland Nurseries and Garden Centre, prepares seed racks at the Red Deer County shop. (By SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)
Central Alberta gardeners already buying seeds to prepare for spring

Potatoes and carrots popular choices for backyard gardens

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced 16 additional deaths Thursday. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
No easing of Alberta’s COVID-19 measures Thursday, 678 new COVID-19 cases

The province also hit 1,500 COVID-19 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic

Red Deer’s newest Waskasoo Park trail offers some bird’s-eye views of the city. It runs along the Highland Green escarpment, between Howarth Street Close and 60th Street. More information is available on reddeer.ca. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).
PHOTO: New Red Deer trail offers hikers a bird’s-eye view

It links Howarth Street Close with 60th Street

Gov. Gen. Julie Payette delivers the throne speech in the Senate chamber in Ottawa on Sept. 23, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Gov. Gen. Julie Payette resigns

OTTAWA — Gov. Gen. Julie Payette is resigning. The news comes as… Continue reading

Former Alberta Premier Rachel Notley shakes hands with Joel Ward, former Red Deer College President and CEO, as Notley announces that the college is on the path to grant degrees. Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan says university status is not a necessary condition for offering degrees. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Future of Red Deer University increasingly uncertain

MLA’s college update says RDC more like SAIT and NAIT than a university

Winnipeg Jets' Mark Scheifele, left, and Kyle Connor, right, congratulate Blake Wheeler on his goal during second period NHL action against the Ottawa Senators on Thursday, January 21, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Four different Jets score as Winnipeg beats the Ottawa Senators 4-1

Four different Jets score as Winnipeg beats the Ottawa Senators 4-1

Canes’ season paused, while Caps play on without 4 regulars

Canes’ season paused, while Caps play on without 4 regulars

Team Stecklein forward Allie Thunstrom (9) shoots against Team Szabados goalie Shannon Szabados in the NWHL All-Star Hockey Game Sunday, Feb. 10, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Mark Humphrey
NWHL expansion Toronto Six head to Lake Placid women’s hockey bubble

NWHL expansion Toronto Six head to Lake Placid women’s hockey bubble

United States defender Aaron Long (23) and Canada forward Lucas Cavallini (19) battle for the ball during second half of CONCACAF Nations League soccer action in Toronto, Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston
Canadian men’s soccer team returns to action on weekend with scrimmage against U.S.

Canadian men’s soccer team returns to action on weekend with scrimmage against U.S.

FC Dallas forward Fafa Picault, left, steps into a kick as Nashville SC midfielder Alistair Johnston (12) defends during the first half of an MLS soccer match, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020, in Nashville, Tenn. A dozen Canadians are available in Thursday's slimmed-down MLS SuperDraft, reduced to three rounds from four this year. While the draft is not the pipeline it once was, the success of players like Johnston, taken 11th overall last year by expansion Nashville SC, show there are still success stories.THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Mark Humphrey
Whitecaps go international with Nigerian forward, Jamaican defender in MLS SuperDraft

Whitecaps go international with Nigerian forward, Jamaican defender in MLS SuperDraft

Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, Dec. 11, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle
Report on Quebec woman murdered by offender on day parole calls for better oversight

Report on Quebec woman murdered by offender on day parole calls for better oversight

White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks with Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, during a press briefing in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Fauci unleashed: Doc takes ‘liberating’ turn at centre stage

Fauci unleashed: Doc takes ‘liberating’ turn at centre stage

A man wears a protective face mask to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as he walks past the emergency department of the Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver Wednesday, November 18, 2020.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Manitoba eases measures as COVID cases decline, but feds warn of severe illness rise

Manitoba eases measures as COVID cases decline, but feds warn of severe illness rise

Most Read