The 2022 Six Nations drew to a close in March, with France claiming the Grand Slam title for the first time in 12 years. Yet prior to the Six Nations, and in the aftermath, many rugby fans and critics have been discussing another team and pondering the same question: Will South Africa join the Six Nations?
There has been ongoing speculation for many months, with South Africa’s Eben Etzebeth also weighing in on the debate. In this article, we get to the bottom of the speculation and look and what could be in store for the national team.
The Rugby Championship Commitment Until 2025
Rumours first began to circulate about South Africa’s involvement in the Rugby Championship. However, in February 2022 it was announced that South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Argentina (or Sanzaar) would continue their alliance until 2025.
A spokesperson for Sanzaar stated that the members had signed an agreement which “committed to the organisation through to the end of the current broadcasting cycle in 2025.” However, there are still questions about what could happen after 2025 and many wonder if the Rugby Championship tournament will continue in its current form.
Six Nations Deny Any Changes
Following months of speculation and after the announcement from Sanzaar, Six Nation organisers replied to rumours in February 2022. A spokesperson claimed that the organisation is not currently planning to admit South Africa to the Six Nations—or removing Italy for the championship—in a statement that read:
“Six Nations Rugby, comprising the six unions and federations and CVC, wish to confirm that they are not entertaining any discussion nor developing any plans to add or replace any participating union.
“All its energy is focused on the current strategic discussions regarding the July and November international windows and structure of the global season, and to ensure a positive outcome for the development of the game.”
Further Speculation and Rumour
While the Six Nation organisers undeniably hoped to quash rumours, talk has continued. In part, this is likely due to the long-standing link between South Africa and northern hemisphere rugby, with four of the country’s teams having left the southern hemisphere for the United Rugby Championship.
However, Eben Etzebeth has also added fuel to the fire. During an interview in May 2022, Etzebeth claimed that it made ‘perfect sense’ for the South African Rugby Union to join the Six Nations, saying “I think the Six Nations would be good for us.”
2026 and Beyond
Whether or not South Africa will join the Six Nations remains to be seen. As it stands, the current agreement with Sanzaar remains in place until 2025 but no commitment has been agreed beyond this date. As such, we may well see South Africa join northern hemisphere rugby before the end of the decade.