The Rainbow Cup has not been cancelled, says SA Rugby President Mark Alexander
The Rainbow Cup has not been cancelled, and South Africa are exploring every possible option to make the tournament happen.
That was the official word from SA Rugby president Mark Alexander yesterday following reports that the event was set to be called off due to the fact that the local teams wouldn’t be able to operate out of a bio-bubble in the UK.
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Weekend online and newspaper reports stated that the SA teams were instructed not to apply for UK visas just yet as the British government had not given the necessary clearances for the Bulls, Sharks, Stormers and Lions to be based in a bio-bubble in Bristol.
The South Africans are due to start their part of the tournament with derby matches from April 24 onwards, with three consecutive weekends of overseas matches scheduled from May 29 to June 12, with the final set for June 19.
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Now all of that is in doubt, but Alexander told Independent Media that his organisation is doing all it can to ensure the Rainbow Cup is played.
“No one has cancelled the Rainbow Cup. We are looking at every possible scenario to stage the SA teams’ overseas matches,” he said.
“We are in negotiations with all authorities, locally and in the UK, to have the games take place as scheduled. We are fighting hard for the Rainbow Cup to go ahead.
“But at the moment, the decision is really outside rugby’s ambit. It is at government level, as there is currently a travel ban on South Africans entering the UK.
“They have said they are monitoring the situation here.”
Other sources have told Independent Media that the governments and health regulatory bodies are also in contact with each other about allowing the SA teams to enter the UK.
Alexander is still hopeful that the Rainbow Cup will happen. He confirmed that a number of alternative plans are being considered for the bio-bubble, with the island of Jersey – which is a British Crown Dependency, but not part of the UK – Dubai in the United Arab Emirates and Qatar among the areas being looked at.
“If the Rainbow Cup doesn’t take place, long-term there could be a crippling effect on South African rugby. International rugby is where the money comes from to fund local rugby – and remember that the Springboks haven’t played since winning the World Cup,” Alexander said.
“So, it is critical that this tournament is played. TV rights, sponsorship rights … all those factors play a huge role in our rugby.”
If the Rainbow Cup has to be called off, Alexander said, then another local Franchise Cup may be organised to prepare the players for the British and Irish Lions tour.