The Springboks currently play in the Rugby Championship, a southern hemisphere tournament including New Zealand, Australia and Argentina, but with some of their provincial teams playing in the United Rugby Championship already and their involvement in European competitions next season, an alignment with the north is becoming increasingly apparent.
They report that private equity firm CVC, who bought a one-seventh stake in the tournament last year for £365million, wants to see wholescale significant reform to increase revenue and believes bringing South Africa into the competition would do that.
Six Nations revamp – how would it work?
It is understood that rather than expand the Six Nations to seven teams, the organisers would dispose of Italy, perennial “winners” of the wooden spoon, to enhance competitiveness. Such a scenario would remove the spectre of relegation, which has also been mooted.
If South Africa do join the Six Nations, it would be a seismic alteration to the global rugby landscape. The tournament, which replaced the Five Nations in 2000, is extremely popular and allowing the Boks to play in it will divide opinion across the rugby world.
Rugby Championship implications
South Africa are committed to play in the Rugby Championship for the next three years, as announced earlier in the week, which would make 2025 the earliest possible date for a move, with the Brendan Morris, the chief executive of Sanzaar, the governing body that runs Super Rugby and the Rugby Championship, saying: “They [the South African Rugby Union] put us on notice they were exploring their options. That was well before Christmas.”
When CVC invested in the Six Nations back in March 2021, they made it clear they want to make changes. “The objective is to enhance the sporting spectacle of all the tournaments, teams and brands; and to build broader commercial capabilities to support these ambitious plans,” a statement read. “These steps will ensure continued development for the benefit of fans, and to attract a new more diverse and global fan base.”
Six Nations comments from past
While the Six Nations has deep-rooted history and is immensely popular with supporters, its chief executive Benjamin Morel commented on the prospect of change last autumn.
"The Six Nations have added to and reduced its teams very few times in its 140 years,” Morel said, “so it's something we'd be very cautious about doing. We're pretty happy with what we have, but we're pretty sure it could be improved.”
Scotland played South Africa last November in the Autumn Nations Series, losing 30-15 at BT Murrayfield.