Rugby Championship: South Africa withdraws from the Southern Hemisphere event |...

South Africa won the World Cup after beating England in the final last year

World champions South Africa have withdrawn from the rugby championship and left Argentina, Australia and New Zealand to play the tournament.

Tournament organizers SANZAAR, who had given South Africa an additional 48 hours to confirm their intentions, announced the expected decision on Friday.

South Africa cited concerns over player welfare as domestic competition was delayed and government travel restrictions were uncertain for players in South Africa and Europe during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Springboks were due to play Argentina in Sydney on November 7th, more than a year since their last friendly.

Andy Marinos, CEO of SANZAAR, said: “Of course, it is extremely disappointing that the Springboks cannot fully participate in the previously planned six-round rugby championship due to the ongoing complexity of operations in and around this COVID environment.”

South Africa is expected to host the British and Irish Lions next year and may have 20 months without test rugby at the start of the series unless new games can be scheduled.

The South African Curry Cup competition didn’t start until October 10 because of delays due to the coronavirus, leaving Springboks players with little wiggle room before the championship.

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Highlights of the 2020 first Bledisloe Cup test between New Zealand and Australia

Highlights of the 2020 first Bledisloe Cup test between New Zealand and Australia

The players would have played a maximum of three national games before their scheduled departure for Australia and for most of them it would have been informal games or exhibition games.

The withdrawal of the Springboks will cut the rugby championship from 12 to six games, all of which will be played in Australia. However, it will continue over a period of six weeks, with each team having at least two byes.

The Argentine squad is already preparing for the tournament in Australia. Home preparation was affected by a Covid-19 outbreak that affected at least 10 players and the head coach.

The cougars will also be close to the game as they face their opening test and try to arrange warm-ups against local teams.

The All Blacks and Wallabies will meet for the opening games of the tournament in Sydney on October 31st and November 7th, followed by their Bledisloe Cup series with two games in New Zealand.

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