Without criticising the Springboks’ continued participation in the tournament, URC chief Martin Anayi has identified the Rugby Championship as a thorn in the side of the fledgling competition’s ability to reach its full potential.

Feedback from last season’s inaugural edition revealed the teething problems of World Rugby not having finalised a global calendar, implying that the URC, in particular, will continue to have to compromise on optimal competitiveness.

We’ve been very vocal with World Rugby about how the calendar can be improved, particularly in terms of internationals not overlapping with club rugby. In the northern hemisphere, we’re getting there. We try not to play during the Six Nations window or the November internationals “Anayi spoke at a URC roundtable hosted by Roc Nation, one of the organization’s commercial partners.

“Of course, there is a misalignment when the Rugby Championship begins the season. I’d like to eventually align those two streams so that we don’t have this mismatch and overlap. This tournament would be even better than it is now.”

Better alignment would also mean that the URC avoids the proverbial “season of two halves,” as was evident last season.

“One of the main points of feedback we received was that until the calendar is better aligned, you’ll have seasons of two halves, which was very much the case in the inaugural season. We hope that doesn’t happen again, especially since the Omicron variant outbreak forced us to reschedule some games into the Six Nations window “Anayi stated.

“There were mismatches in the first half, but it improved in the second as some teams, particularly the South Africans, found consistency.

“Non-South African teams noted that they, too, had to juggle European rugby. Everyone is now in the same boat. There’s a new challenge, as well as some consistency. I believe we can have a better season. Everything is better now. Instead of covering multiple events, the media can focus on one.”

Nonetheless, Anayi, who has been widely praised for his willingness to listen, acknowledges that everyone in world rugby can contribute to keeping the game fresh.

“Overall, and this will take a team effort, we can certainly play fewer games in terms of the number of games played. We should prioritise quality over quantity. If we can get direct match-ups – internationals versus internationals – that will be the holy grail “He stated.

“A more gradual progression to internationals, such as a nations cup or league, would also be beneficial. Every game would have a purpose. We must remain ambitious and forward-thinking.”

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