Call for Japan to host Springboks-Lions series
Former All Black Todd Blackadder says the Asian country is ready to go, but SA Rugby president Mark Alexander isn’t keen
Former All Blacks lock and Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder has urged the organisers to consider moving the 2021 British and Irish Lions series against the Springboks to Japan.
He made the comments on Wednesday amid speculation about whether the series will take place because of restrictions in SA and the UK as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Blackadder‚ who now coaches the Toshiba Brave Lupus in Tokyo‚ believes hosting the series in Japan will tick boxes that are unlikely to be populated due to the pandemic.
“There is a lot of talk whether the Lions tour will go ahead or not. Why don’t the Lions come out and play in Japan? Japan ran a great World Cup tournament. They have great venues here. The Lions could play SA. It is all set up ready to go, and on the back of that, the Japanese national team can get a few games in‚” said Blackadder.
Like the Springboks‚ the Brave Blossoms have not played since the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
Blackadder’s suggestion is not the first for the series to be played outside SA. Australian rugby officials also extended an invitation to have the series played in that country. There is also the possibility of the three Tests being staged in the UK in July and August.
The poignancy of the Springboks potentially returning to the scene where they completed one of their greatest triumphs would not be lost on their fans‚ but SA Rugby president Mark Alexander poured cold water on the idea of taking the series to Japan.
“There are a lot of things to consider. What travel bans are in place? What are the conditions on which you enter the country?” asked Alexander.
What really makes the idea a non-starter in Alexander’s view are the limitations it will place on SA Rugby’s revenue streams. “It is outside our and the UK’s time zone. Your broadcast revenue will be peanuts.
“We need to play it where it will be financially viable. What is the value proposition? And I suppose‚ what does the Japanese Rugby Union say?”
The organisers are likely to make a decision in the next week or so about where the series will take place. If it does go ahead, it is likely to generate huge interest‚ former Bulls coach Frans Ludeke insisted.
“It is going to be a cracker‚” said Ludeke‚ who now coaches the Kubota Spears. “Players dream of that. The European teams are playing already‚ so it is important for the South Africans to get their players together. They have the same coaching staff and the same players.
“The Lions have a massive team they can put together from the home unions. They can challenge the SA pack. That is the way they played in the Rugby World Cup. They dominated up front‚ they had a huge bench and played to their strengths. They had a smart kicking game and a very strong defensive pattern.
“To grow that and to make it even better by adding to your attack‚ you need time. That’s why I would like to see SA playing and getting back into international rugby.
“If I talk with my heart, I will back the Boks [to win] because I know the mentality. You’re playing at home‚ there is a lot at stake. It’s not always about the names. It is about pride. There is fanatical support. It will be a good contest,” said Ludeke.
Former Wallabies and Crusaders coach Robbie Deans also backed the Boks. “Crowds or no crowds will probably be the biggest influence on the outcome of the series. I’ll back SA at home‚” said the Panasonic Wild Knights coach.
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