We deeply empathise with sports administrators trying to operate in the covid era. Sport has been such a welcome distraction these past 12 months, and it would not be happening without heroic administrators sorting logistics behind the scenes and making sure their sport remains pandemic-compliant.
That said, sports administrators can try to do too much. We've seen that especially with the launch of the Rainbow Cup right in the middle of this pandemic.
We've learned this morning the Rainbow Cup is heading towards a farcical resolution in its first year. This morning, the PRO 14 announced that Benetton would be the Northern Hemisphere's representative in the Rainbow Cup final. This is because the Ospreys, their opponent at the weekend, have a covid outbreak in their camp. Benetton will receive four points for a walkover and cannot be caught by any other teams chasing a place in the final.
Benetton's journey to the Rainbow Cup final, you ask? Two wins over Zebre, victories over Glasgow and Connacht and now a walkover.
Munster - who beat Leinster and Ulster - believed they had a chance to overtake Benetton when they played Zebre at the weekend. That fixture is now meaningless. CJ Stander's final game of rugby - if fit - deserves more pomp and circumstance.
This is not to diminish what Benetton have achieved this spring. It's just harsh on Munster and Glasgow.
Benetton away record v Ospreys in Pro14 = 2 match points from 10 games played, 4 match points from 1 game cancelled
— Russ Petty (@rpetty80) June 9, 2021
As broadcasters who’ve tried to do our very best to big the Rainbow cup up, this a frustrating (almost typical) way to finish the Northern comp! https://t.co/2E8QxE2DXB
— Tommy Bowe (@TommyBowe) June 9, 2021
There's something almost inevitable about this latest development. The Rainbow Cup never really took off. Sure, the concept of the best non-English and French rugby clubs taking on the best South African clubs sounds great. But perhaps executing the tournament amidst a third wave of covid was always overly ambitious. When the South African clubs withdrew on the eve of the tournament launch, it did not bode well. We've now spent the last eight weeks building up to a hemisphere vs hemisphere final, but there'll forever be an asterisk beside the final now.
Benetton will play either the Bulls or the Sharks in the Rainbow Cup final on June 19 in Treviso.