The cold, hard reality of SA's potential move to Six Nations
SPOTLIGHT: Two of the most respected figures of the game, Bob Skinstad and John Barclay, have poured cold water over ongoing talks of South Africa’s potential move to the Six Nations.
It has been a divisive subject for some time, with contrasting opinions – from ‘it is a done deal’ to an equally firm ‘NO’.
The Six Nations organisers have publicly stated they are not planning to admit South Africa to the championship from 2025.
However, that has not stopped or even slowed down the debate.
Barclay and Skinstad, both Premier Sports pundits with insights into the inner sanctum of the game, said it is a daedal matter that can’t be answered with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
They suggested that one of the more pressing questions – alongside the desire for South Africa to join the Six Nations – is the need to align the global calendar.
Barclay, a loose forward who represented Scotland in three World Cups and with 76 Test caps, was not sold on the idea of South Africa’s addition to Europe’s premier international championship.
“If South Africa is to join the Six Nations, it couldn’t become the Seven Nations,” he said, adding that Italy would likely ‘veto’ the move.
“If Italy doesn’t veto it, they won’t be in the Six Nations.
“There is not enough space in the current calendar, as it is, to have South Africa in the Six Nations.”
Barclay said it will be “fascinating” seeing South African teams in Europe’s Champions Cup competition next season.
“The dynamics, the style of play they brought to the United Rugby Championship and the totally different athletes they have will make a really exciting competition,” he said of the move to the European Cup.
“I am not sure if it is the right thing to have them in the Six Nations.”
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Skinstad, who has a World Cup winner’s medal after playing the 1999 and 2007 editions, described it as a “tough” poser, seeing it from a European view – having lived and worked in the Northern Hemisphere for many years.
“The heritage of the tournament and the fact that it is a European product, protecting that heritage and the history of the tournament is important to the people,” Skinstad said.
On the flip side, he said, change does happen.
“We [South Africa] come from a little corner of Africa where we don’t have the spending power and fan power of the European competitions.
“A boost to South African rugby to compete on a yearly basis and earn revenue on a yearly basis in that environment would be very good,” the now-retired former Springbok skipper said.
“How they do it, would have to be respectful of the amazing traditions and history of the tournament.
“They would also need to be respectful of the fact that there are a lot of teams a lot closer to this tournament,” he said, adding: “They are not World Championship teams at the moment, but teams that have competed close to this tournament and deserve the first shot at it.
“The cold, hard reality is that the people that are investing in rugby now see a future where the biggest and best teams in the world play each other on a regular enough basis to earn more money for those teams.
“Whether that serves rugby best is something we can debate long into the night.
“A tournament that included South Africa would be a good one, but we would potentially always be an ‘outlier’, so maybe there is an interim solution of only playing every second year.”