Sat, 11 Jul 2020

Berlin - Former All Blacks captain Sean Fitzpatrick wants to see the Springboks remain in the southern hemisphere.

While nothing has been confirmed, reports over the last couple of weeks have suggested that SA Rugby is considering the possibility of a move up north to join the existing Six Nations competition.

It is a potentially out-of-the-box move that could mean the death of the existing Rugby Championship, where the Boks take on long-time rivals New Zealand and Australia, with Argentina an addition since 2012, in the hemisphere's premier international tournament every year.

Fitzpatrick, though, is not a fan of the idea.

"I don't like that," he said in a frank chat with Sport24 at the 2020 Laureus World Sports Awards in Berlin on Sunday.

"I want South Africa in the southern hemisphere.

"I can appreciate the commercial significance of them playing in the northern hemisphere, but if you look at the Six Nations, it's just not right.

"It (Six Nations) is the greatest competition in the world and I absolutely love it. I love being at Cardiff and at Twickenham ... but I just can't envisage going to Cardiff and watching South Africa play Wales in the Seven Nations.

"That's not right."

Fitzpatrick added that one possible solution would have been World Rugby's proposed Nations Championship that would have seen the world's top countries compete in a league format each year. That plan was scrapped midway through 2019.

South Africa, though, are not the only southern hemisphere nation with challenges. While Australian rugby's financial hurdles are well-documented, Fitzpatrick added that the situation in New Zealand was also difficult to manage.

"We need money," he said.

"We're okay, but trying to keep our players in New Zealand is costing a lot of money, so they're doing other things like offloading the Retallicks off their books for two years and giving Beauden Barrett a bit of time in Japan."

The overall state of the game, however, was in a healthy space according to Fitzpatrick thanks largely to the success of the 2019 World Cup in Japan.

"It was the best World Cup I have ever been to," he said.

"And, I think for the first time, it made decent money so I think the decision to take the tournament to Japan to grow the game was justified."

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