World champions South Africa are "desperate" to play in the Rugby Championship this year, but there remain a number of hurdles before they will commit to the competition, according to director of rugby Rassie Erasmus.
The Southern Hemisphere competition will be staged in Australia from 7 November to 12 December, but the defending champion Springboks face being woefully under-prepared, which Erasmus believes could make participation dangerous for the players.
"We desperately want to play, it will be terrible to go a year without the Springboks playing," he said.
"But we have had one of the toughest lockdowns in the world and our players were indoors for months. In other countries players could train or at least go to the park to exercise. We did not have that.
"So if you look at the science, we have to get five or six matches into the players for their own welfare and to make it safe for them, and we are working out how to do that. Players probably need 500 minutes [of game-time] to be safe."
South Africa's domestic competition will only start on 10 October with players having been largely inactive since March. Erasmus reveals the Boks are also facing resistance from English clubs over the release of players in time for the start of the Rugby Championship.
"We would want to arrive in Australia at the same time, as you have to quarantine for two weeks, which is why you need to take a massive squad because if you get injuries, you can't just bring someone new in," he said.
Erasmus confirmed that from a team management point of view, they would want to confirm participation by 10 October at the latest.
"We want to go, we know we have to go [from a financial point of view], we are just working out how we make it possible to go," he added.