Domestic rugby kicked off this past weekend in South Africa with the Bulls hosting the Sharks in Pretoria before, at the same venue, the Lions battled the Stormers.
It was a welcome sight to see many of the world champions back in action, but there remains a race against time for them to be fully match-fit as the Rugby Championship looms, scheduled for 7 November.
“We desperately want to play. We want to play Springbok rugby and it would be terrible to go through a year without playing test matches,” said Springbok director of rugby, Rassie Erasmus.
While the South Africa-based players are still too green for test rugby after the hiatus, those playing overseas will have reached an acceptable level of fitness to take on a test match. It remains to be seen, however, if their clubs will allow for their release.
“The players need between 400-500 minutes to be competitive and safe to play a high-performance tournament, and those players are probably the overseas-based players. But even with them, the player with the highest minutes there is currently on just over 400 minutes. There are still two weeks to go.
We don’t have an answer. We know we want to go and, actually, we know we have to go. We just don’t know at this stage how we’re going to make it possible to go.”
When one factors in quarantine periods once the South Africans arrive in Australia, things become even more complicated.
“We’re working really hard to try and see how we can make this work and we’re having weekly calls with Sanzaar. Our CEO is working really hard with them in terms of the financial models. Everyone is trying really hard.” Erasmus added.