The Springboks great is mindful of protecting the championship’s history and traditions but believes money will ultimately decide.
The concept of South Africa joining the Six Nations has gathered momentum with the assimilation of their clubs into the European game. The Stormers, Bulls and Sharks have all qualified for next season’s Heineken Champions Cup via the inaugural United Rugby Championship.
Skinstad, who was capped 42 times by South Africa and was part of their World Cup-winning squad in 2007, knows it’s an issue that has to be handled sensitively.
“It’s a tough one,” he said. “There’s the heritage of the tournament and the fact that it's European. Protecting the heritage is important to the people and protecting the history is important. However, change does happen.
“We come from a little corner of Africa which doesn’t have the spending power or the fan power of the European competitions and the boost for South African rugby to compete and earn on a yearly basis in that environment would be very good.
“How they do it would have to be respectful of the amazing traditions and history of the tournament.”
Skinstad, who was speaking alongside former Scotland captain John Barclay at a Premier Sports event to promote the station’s coverage of this weekend’s URC quarter-finals, feels one solution could be to have South Africa playing in the Six Nations every second year..
“The cold hard reality is that the people who are investing in rugby now see a future where the biggest and best teams play each other on a regular enough basis to earn more money for those teams,” added Skinstad.
“Whether that serves rugby best is something we can debate long into the night. I don’t think I’d say anything else except that a tournament that contains South Africa would be a good one but potentially we would always be an outlier, so maybe it’s every second year. Something like that might be an interim solution.”
Barclay is concerned about the impact on Italy. The Azzurri have struggled in recent seasons, ending up with the wooden spoon in each of the last seven, although they beat Wales this year.
“I think if South Africa are to join the Six Nations it couldn’t then become the Seven Nations, which would then mean Italy would not be in the Six Nations,” said Barclay. “I think there is not enough space in the current calendar as it is to have South Africa in the Six Nations.
“I think seeing them in Europe [Champions Cup] next season is going to be fascinating. The dynamic, the style of play and the athletes they have will make it a really exciting competition. But I’m not sure if it’s the right thing for the Six Nations.”
Any proposal for South Africa to join the Six Nations would require unanimous approval from the competing unions and private equity firm CVC Capital Partners who each have a 14.4 per cent stake. CVC invested in 2021 in a £365 million deal.
Six Nations Rugby released a statement in March saying that the six unions and CVC were “not entertaining any discussion nor developing any plans to add or replace any participating Union”.