South Africa are set to leave the Rugby Championship and form a seven-team Six Nations after the next World Cup in a move that will radically alter the international landscape of the sport, according to reports.
The Daily Mail is claiming that behind-the-scenes negotiations have taken place and there is a “sense of inevitability” that the Springboks will drop out of the Rugby Championship which they currently compete in against Australia, New Zealand and Argentina.
One source told the newspaper that “things were falling nicely into place” with South Africa set to take place in Europe’s premier competition in 2024.
Italy’s place in the Six Nations has constantly been up for debate given their lack of competitiveness in recent years, but South Africa’s addition would not be to replace the struggling Azzurri.
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South Africa has already seen two club sides, the Cheetahs and the Southern Kings, drop out of Super Rugby and join the Pro14, which is contested between teams from Wales, Scotland and Ireland.
And the success of that has encouraged last year’s World Cup winners to push forward with the plans, in what would be the latest blow to the Southern Hemisphere’s premier tournament.
One of the main reasons for South Africa’s desire for change is reportedly the time difference between their homeland and the rest of Europe.
They would only be working on a two-hour time difference to adjust their bodies to, rather than the gruelling demands when they travel to Australia and New Zealand.
Another reason is the large South African community in London and the large number of exiles currently playing professional rugby for European-based clubs.
The move could pave the way for Japan to finally enter the Rugby Championship but would surely weaken the competition as a whole.
Negotiations are reportedly still ongoing but with talks over a new broadcast deal for the Six Nations set to begin, the potential addition of South Africa will need to be confirmed sooner rather than later.