SANZAAR have revealed that New Zealand is the preferred destination for the Rugby Championship but new Springboks head coach Jacques Nienaber has indicated they are doubtful starters for this year's Rugby Championship, casting a cloud over the Sanzaar tournament.
The former defence coach for the Springboks fears that his players won't be physically ready for the four-nations event which is provisionally scheduled to be played entirely in New Zealand from November 7 to December 12.
The traditional November Tests in Europe are off the agenda with World Rugby also confirming its backing for the new "emergency" international window, pushed back three months because of COVID-19.
There were hopes SANZAAR could stage the delayed Rugby Championship exclusively in New Zealand, due to the country being comparatively safe from the coronavirus crisis.
However, Nienaber noted the vast discrepancy in readiness for his players compared to those in Australasia. Speaking to Netwerk24, The new Bok has expressed concerns about the mental toll that could take on his world champions with Covid-19 running rampant in South Africa and players having to leave families there.
"That raises all sorts of extra anxieties, never mind the massively challenging rugby aspects involved,” Nienaber said.
"It is going to very tough for the squad to leave behind wives, children and other loved ones to spend six weeks plus the quarantining needs around the tournament out of South Africa; the coronavirus situation is still so volatile here.
"You can only imagine the predicament facing guys if a close relative, for example, is suddenly badly affected by the virus back home. Can you fly back? Do you fly back?
"What happens if you then hope to return to the tournament, meaning fresh quarantining requirements?
"I think we will be quite fortunate if that scenario doesn't crop up for someone in our (midst).
"So it is going to very tough mentally to leave our shores for a couple of months ... that humanity factor."
Nienaber has also raised the difficult physical challenges his players will face with Australian and New Zealand rugby already back up and running.
The Bok coach doesn’t hold too much hope of South Africa’s domestic rugby scene getting underway again by the end of August, as planned with sides currently training in small groups.
"It won't be any time ahead of that: when we finally get together, a lot of water would have gone under the bridge,” he added.
"The longer we stay out (not playing competitively in SA), the further we will lag behind the likes of New Zealand and Australian rugby.”