World champion South Africa won’t play in the Rugby Championship in a massive blow to the tournament.
SANZAAR confirmed on Friday the South African team had withdrawn from the tournament in Australia, also involving the Wallabies, All Blacks and Argentina.
The competition will proceed as a Tri-Nations, getting underway on October 31 and played across six weeks.
SANZAAR said several factors were behind the decision, including South African government travel restrictions and player welfare.
In the six-match Tri-Nations, teams will play each other twice, with matches to be hosted in Sydney, Brisbane and Newcastle.
“Naturally, it is extremely disappointing that the Springboks, due to the continued complexities of operating in and around this COVID environment, cannot fully compete in the previously planned six-round Rugby Championship,” SANZAAR chief executive Andy Marinos said.
South African Rugby boss Jurie Roux said while SANZAAR and Rugby Australia did their best to accommodate the Springboks, they felt they needed to make a final call.
“SANZAAR and Rugby Australia have bent over backwards to make the tournament happen and it would have been unfair on them and their partners and state government to delay a decision any longer,” Roux said.
“This is a hugely disappointing outcome for supporters and commercial partners but the ongoing impacts of the pandemic in multiple dispensations mean we are unable to deliver a Springbok team without seriously compromising player welfare, apart from other logistical challenges.”
The first two matches involving Australia and New Zealand double up as the final two Bledisloe Cup series matches.
Tri-Nations match schedule
October 31: Australia v New Zealand (ANZ Stadium, Sydney)
November 7: Australia v New Zealand (Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane)
November 14: New Zealand v Argentina (Bankwest Stadium, Sydney)
November 21: Argentina v Australia (McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle)
November 28: Argentina v New Zealand (McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle)
December 5: Australia v Argentina (Bankwest Stadium, Sydney)