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Rainbow Cup revamp: SA teams avoid cash crunch, novel plan to get into UK via Croatia

SA Rugby and PRO14 Rugby 'left no stone unturned' to make the Rainbow Cup a reality. (Photo by Carl Fourie/Gallo Images/Getty Images)


SA Rugby and PRO14 Rugby ‘left no stone unturned’ to make the Rainbow Cup a reality. (Photo by Carl Fourie/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

  • Finances will remain tight, but SA’s four PRO16 franchises have been spared a more severe monetary impact by reworking the Rainbow Cup instead of cancelling it.
  • It’s understood that broadcast revenue will be enough to at least avert an industry-wide pay cut plan as was the case in 2020.
  • Meanwhile, the logistical hurdles were immense with SA Rugby and PRO14 Rugby even exploring using Croatia as a way to get the SA teams into the UK.

Purse strings will remain tight at South Africa’s four PRO16 franchises, but this week’s announcement of a rejigged Rainbow Cup at least won’t prove a financial death knell.

READ | Start date confirmed for PRO14 Rainbow Cup SA

While CEOs are holding their cards in this regard close to their chests, Sport24 understands that broadcasting revenue from the seven-week collection of local derbies is not as insufficient as initially feared.

“Everyone involved would’ve undeniably preferred an international competition, where interest could’ve been maximised. But the overall sentiment is that, given the circumstances, we’re okay on the financial front,” an insider with knowledge of the Rainbow Cup machinations said.

Indeed, despite local rugby supporters becoming weary of having to watch the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers battle it out again in what could become gritty, attritional matches, there’s enough appetite from broadcasters given that it’s still a strength-versus-strength competition.

Also, it’s much-needed live content.

As a result, SA Rugby and the franchises are less fearful of having to implement a second round of pay cuts, which was the case last year when an Industry Financial Impact Plan saved up to R1.2 billion to offset losses from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, the local governing body and PRO14 Rugby’s dedication towards hosting a fully-fledged tournament is illustrated by one scenario where SA Rugby explored sending the four franchises to Croatia, where it was hoped that the teams would be allowed in on the assumption of them being classified as “frontier workers”.

The country’s official conditions for entry includes “athletes as stated in the exceptions for passengers within the (European Union/European Economic Area)” in its definition of “frontier workers”.

The teams would then travel to England as Croatia is currently on its “amber (or orange) list” of destinations, meaning that they would’ve had to quarantine for 10 days on arrival after taking a pre-departure Covid test. 

PCR tests would also have needed to be taken on the second and eighth days of isolation.

“It was definitely a novel and interesting idea, but it’s also a loophole,” said the source.

“If there’s one lesson the pandemic has taught sport it’s that government regulations rule at the moment. The risk of organising chartered flights only to be denied entry into the UK is just too big.

“After all, our franchises would’ve only used England as base to travel to matches. They would be a conduit, nothing else. Their government could’ve frowned upon something like that.”

ALSO READ | All the stops SA Rugby and PRO14 pulled out to make doomed Rainbow Cup a reality

Sport24 also determined that match days would’ve been nightmarish for the South African teams as the Irish and Scottish governments insisted on them being in and out of the respective countries on the same day.

It was those type of hurdles that prompted Jurie Roux, SA Rugby’s chief, to say earlier this week that “pieces of the jigsaw would not fall into place”.

Whether Rainbow Cup SA fulfils national coach Jacques Nienaber’s high performance requirements before the British & Irish Lions series is a question that will only be answered later, but it’s understood that local players are understanding of the situation.

It at least spares them of one bubble as the Springboks will have to enter two separate bio-secure environments for the Lions tour and the Rugby Championship.    


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