Jake White during the Currie Cup final between Bulls and Sharks.
(Lee Warren/Gallo Images)
- Jaded local rugby supporters might have to stomach another month of derbies before the Rainbow Cup provides some different opposition for local franchises.
- Bulls mentor Jake White raised that possibility, predominantly because international travel restrictions would make the planned format virtually impossible.
- Should the four SA franchises be based in a bio-bubble in order to fulfil their overseas fixtures, it would suit the Springboks’ planning if the Lions tour takes place in the UK.
Local rugby supporters who were hoping for the Rainbow Cup to provide some variety to the South African calendar will possibly have to wait another two months for that to happen.
Jake White, the Bulls’ director of rugby, provided that stark reminder following a question over whether local franchises have been given further clarity over details of the competition.
Developed as an appetiser for next season’s inaugural PRO16 and announced back in December, the Rainbow Cup has no itinerary yet though SA Rugby previously announced that it would run between 17 April and 19 June, with South African team travelling for three-match tours and the existing PRO14 teams jetting to Africa too.
But the picture has changed dramatically since then, with both regions hampered by the Covid-19 pandemic and it’s dramatic disruption of international travel.
As a result, White believes the Bulls and their counterparts would have to first play against each other again before travelling together and basing themselves in a bio-secure environment, reportedly the British island of Jersey, to face their overseas opponents.
However, that would mean jaded fans would’ve been exposed to six months of rugby that’s just featured local teams.
“Of course, nothing’s been finalised yet,” said White.
“Personally, we’re working back from the British & Irish Lions series. If you assume that the tour will take place in the UK, you must base your planning on that series starting in July.
“If you consult the English Premiership’s fixtures, you can work out when their play-offs are going to commence and only after that can the Lions actually start training.”
Indeed, England’s domestic league’s round-robin fixtures only conclude on 12 June, suggesting Lions mentor, Warren Gatland, can only bank on those players being available at the end of that month.
“That means something must happen between now and July, particularly if the Springboks are going to be prepared for the series,” said White.
“The only way (the Rainbow Cup) can work is that we will have to play against each other here, and then we must go overseas and play against a few teams there to get some game time.
“Then, after that tournament – maybe three, four, five weeks – maybe there will be a semi-final and final. That takes us to the end of May or early June, and by that time, it’s finished.
“Then it’s two or three weeks of preparation for the Boks, and then the Lions tour starts.”
Such an arrangement would fit in well with the Springboks’ plans, who would already have completed the necessary safety regulations to play in the UK should the Lions battle be shifted to the region.
There has been no indication of when the fixtures for the Rainbow Cup would be announced, but a decision on the Lions tour is expected at the end of the month.