The revelations came when the Toulon lock spoke to Jim Hamilton in the latest instalment of Rugby Roots, and are indicative of a growing appetite in some corners of the rugby world for a reshuffle of one of the most prestigious calendar tournaments.
Six Nations organisers released a statement in February, squashing any speculation of the Springboks being inducted into the tournament. This came days after SA Rugby committed to the Rugby Championship until at least 2025, but none of this stopped Etzebeth from entertaining the prospect.
“I think the Six Nations would be good for us,” he said. “Obviously, it just makes sense with us playing in the URC at the moment against the same competition.”
At the start of this season the Sharks, Stormers, Bulls and Lions were all inducted into the URC and at the end of this season, Etzebeth himself will be joining Sharks.
The link between South Africa and European rugby will grow even further when the private equity firm CVC, which has already invested in the URC, buys a stake in SA Rugby.
There has been plenty of speculation about how this could change the shape of international rugby and Etzebeth weighed in with an idea of his own.
“Maybe we could have a full June series against New Zealand, play in the Six Nations and then have an end of year tour in Australia or Argentina. I would love to join the Six Nations, but I would also love to still play those other teams as well. Maybe they [World Rugby] can get a good balance.
“At the end of the day, for me it’s just about playing for South Africa.”
It’s been a challenging few years for South African rugby. There were no international fixtures played in 2020 and in 2021 the national team had to take to the field in front of predominantly empty seats.
A return to full capacity stadiums has still not arrived, but Etzebeth thinks the upcoming summer series against Wales could help revive fan engagement and be a sign of new rivalries to come in the future.
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