The Castle Lager Rugby Championship 2020 would take place in Australia, in November and December this year, SANZAAR announced on Friday.
The confirmation followed a detailed assessment of tournament hosting submissions from New Zealand Rugby and Rugby Australia, SANZAAR said in a statement. The tournament was moved from its traditional August-September window due to the ongoing effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
The Castle Lager Rugby Championship (TRC) matches will be played within the recently announced World Rugby sanctioned Southern Hemisphere playing window of November 7 to December 12. The tournament will comprise a six -week, 12-match, “home and away” tournament involving Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
SANZAAR CEO Andy Marinos said: “We are delighted that SANZAAR can at last confirm the participants and host country for The Rugby Championship and put an end to continued speculation about the tournaments’ format and location. Traditionally TRC is played as an international, cross-border series of home and away matches between Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa but due to the pandemic this is obviously not possible this year.
“We have, therefore, worked very hard as a group to ensure TRC takes place this year, albeit in one country, and SANZAAR was meticulous in assessing the two options for hosting presented to it by New Zealand Rugby and Rugby Australia.
“SANZAAR ultimately determined that based on government required quarantine protocols [for entry and training prior to the tournament] and commercial underwriting, the Rugby Australia submission was the most desirable and workable in terms of tournament logistics for the essential pre-tournament preparation period and the six-week tournament itself.”
Marinos said that South Africa’s participation remained to be confirmed as it was dependent on several factors outside the control of SANZAAR, “The progress and impact of the pandemic has varied from country-to-country and international sporting competition is currently suspended in South Africa,” he said.
“The Springboks’ participation will be dependent on the relaxation of that suspension as well as overcoming a number of other logistical challenges including the opening of international air borders. South Africa is only expected to return to competitive play next month [October], leaving a relatively short time to prepare.
“The TRC is one of international rugby’s biggest and most prestigious tournaments and it is great to at last provide some clarity for rugby fans and the players. It would not have been possible if not for the huge contributions of our stakeholder unions, our broadcast partners as well as both the Australian (State and Federal) and New Zealand Governments for their assistance and contribution through their respective National Rugby Unions during this process. SANZAAR is now currently working through the refinement of the detailed planning with Rugby Australia and we hope to announce match venues, match dates and kick-off times in the very near future.”
“We are cognisant of the fact that the COVID pandemic environment continues to change and throw up obstacles, but we are confident that our plans are robust and we will naturally build in contingency measures to suit any further changes,” added Marinos.
SA Rugby has welcomed the confirmation that the Castle Lager Rugby Championship would be held in 2020, however, Jurie Roux (SA Rugby CEO) cautioned that the participation of defending champions, South Africa, still had to be confirmed.
“We are pleased that the venue has now been confirmed and would like to commend SANZAAR and Rugby Australia for their work behind the scenes to make it possible,” said Roux.
“We are very eager to see the Springboks return to play but there are still some hurdles to clear and we will be addressing those in the coming weeks.”
Roux said that SA Rugby could not confirm participation while a ban on international sporting activity remained in place in South Africa, while there were other high performance and player wellness issues to consider.
He pointed out that New Zealand resumed match play three months ago while Australia had been in action for 10 weeks. By contrast, South African players only resumed contact training two weeks ago.