SA Rugby president dismisses rumors of rift within SANZAAR

South Africa Rugby President Mark Alexander looks on following a press briefing for the announcement of a new sponsorship by South African Breweries (SAB) for the National Springbok Sevens and Springbok Women's Sevens teams on February 28, in Johannesburg. / AFP PHOTO / GULSHAN KHAN (Photo credit should read GULSHAN KHAN/AFP via Getty Images)

South Africa Rugby president Mark Alexander denied speculation that there was a rift within the rugby alliance SANZAAR following disruptions to the match schedule of this year’s Rugby Championship due to COVID-19 restrictions in Australia and New Zealand.

FILE PHOTO: South Africa Rugby President Mark Alexander during a past press briefing. /Getty Images

The reigning world champions had been scheduled to play the All Blacks in Dunedin and Auckland on September 25 and October 2, but New Zealand announced that the matches had been canceled. The cancellation was a result of the New Zealand government’s directive that the Springboks would not be able to enter to play the matches due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.

New Zealand Rugby (NZR) then announced they would not fly their team to Perth for the third Bledisloe Cup Test against Australia scheduled for August 28. This also prompted a heated reaction from Australia head coach Dave Rennie who accused NZR of not having respect to consult Rugby Australia (RA).

Though the remaining Rugby Championship fixtures have since been rescheduled with the Australian state of Queensland being selected to host the remainder of the tournament, the developments elicited renewed talk of South Africa breaking away from SANZAAR and looking into joining the northern hemisphere’s Six Nations tournament.

Despite those sentiments, Alexander refuted claims that there was a fight within SANZAAR structures.

“We don’t take every argument as a rift. We have bigger battles that we fight in the boardroom,” Alexander said during a Currie Cup function in South Africa.

“We have local arguments here, but that doesn’t mean we’re fighting each other. It’s like when we have a meeting,” Alexander explained. “We fight like hell in the boardroom, but when the door is open, the fight is over.”

“I don’t think we should read too much into these things, and the media play things up and blow things out of proportion.”

The tournament will resume with the third Bledisloe Cup match taking place at Optus Stadium in Perth on September 5. A week later, all four teams will be in action with New Zealand playing Argentina before South Africa faces off with Australia.

(Story compiled with assistance from wire reports)