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South Africa to the Six Nations by 2025 - Craig Ray

Craig Ray believes South Africa's inclusion in the Six Nations is only a matter of time.

South African rugby journalist Craig Ray joined Monday Night Rugby to discuss South Africa's emergence in Europe.

The Stormers beat the Bulls in the URC Final.

While the final itself didn't draw much interest from the Northern Hemisphere, the fact that Leinster and Ulster lost in the semi-finals of the competition did. Especially Leinster. South African rugby didn't just arrive and take beatings in the URC, they showed up at the most important time and overcame strong Irish opponents.

They will hope to do the same in the Champions Cup from next season, adding French and English opponents to their target list.

But it's not going to stop there. After the Champions Cup, the next step is for South Africa's national team to join the 6 Nations. Craig Ray believes that has always been the plan for the Southern Hemisphere-based country. The success in the URC wasn't required but it might help to accelerate the process.

"It's totally part of the plan," Ray said.

"The plan is to be in Six Nations by I think 2025. Possibly as early as 2024 after the World Cup. And it's certainly part of the discussions that are going on. Getting into the Champions Cup and the Challenge Cup was the next step. The only logical step from there is into the Six Nations."

So if South Africa arrive, does that mean Italy depart? That is less clear but there is no motivation for the 6 Nations to drop a team.

"What that's going to look like, as far as I know it's unclear. Maybe they have a better idea but I don't think it necessarily means Italy are relegated. It can become a 7 Nations tournament. But I think you can almost count on the Springboks being in it by 2025.

"I don't think our relationship with New Zealand or Australia is going to completely fall by the wayside. I suspect it might be the best of both worlds."

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Craig Ray Ireland Leinster Rugby Six Nations South Africa URC Ulster