With the Springboks resorting to flying economy class and SA Rugby trying to push every union into an overseas market, the one-off Test against Wales in Washington DC makes sense, right?
How effective a cash-cow exercise this is remains to be seen. Didn’t the Stormers and Bulls plan a warm-up game in Los Angeles in January which was eventually scrapped? Issues regarding the agreed-upon transfers and logistics were eventually offered as the excuse for why it never got off the ground.
But why would SA Rugby try to host a Test match in June in America? Well, with no confirmation of the two new franchises joining the Anglo-Welsh Cup, and SA Rugby also looking to insert the other unions into an overseas competition, maybe this is just a way of soft-soaping USA Rugby into getting more of our teams into a lucrative, competitive environment across the Atlantic.
You’d have to be blind not to see the value of growing SA Rugby’s brand outside of South Africa. The All Blacks play a lower-tier rugby country at least once a year, make some money and give their squad depth a test.
Here’s the thing though, the All Blacks are the world’s best rugby team, and they usually do these travel exercises in the middle of a season. They don’t travel halfway across the world when, one week later, they have to face the second-best team in the world back on home soil for their first Test of the year. With a new coach. Right after three of the most disastrous seasons in team history.
You have to wonder whether SA Rugby thought this through. There’s been talk of Erasmus picking numerous overseas Boks to face Wales, but the Washington Test on 2 June falls outside World Rugby’s June Test Window. Bath were fined almost R1m for allowing Taulupe Faletau to turn out for Wales against the Springboks in December last year, so it’s unlikely that Rassie Erasmus’ recent trip to Europe will have persuaded clubs to release any players for duty outside World Rugby’s official windows.
That leaves the Bok coach with two options: either pick the strongest possible team against Wales and face the jet-lag effects at Ellis Park the following week against England, or field a second-string side in the US and risk losing another Test against Wales, who have beaten us twice on the trot.
Is a third successive loss against Wales worth filling the coffers? And we risk getting Erasmus’ term off to a losing start against England the following week?
But that’s our only option. Surely we won’t play our first team in the US capital, and then expect them to front up against the likes of Itoje, Launchbury, Vunipola and Farrell one week later?
It’s already a lose-lose situation.
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