South Africa joining the Six Nations is not on the immediate agenda, according to the tournament's CEO Ben Morel, who urged caution over such a move.
After South Africa's four biggest franchises recently joined the United Rugby Championship, the expectation has been that it would pave the way for the Springboks to become part of the Six Nations.
However, while Morel did not rule out that happening in the future, he insisted that the make-up of the July and November Test windows was the priority for now.
“The four South African teams into the United Rugby Championship, it will be interesting to see how that goes,” Morel said.
“Our current focus is to figure out the July and November windows, and see what improvements we can have, and make sure that while still keeping the international flavour of north versus south, making sure that we can bring some further improvements to the fixtures in those windows. So that's the current focus.”
Asked if he would like the Springboks to join the Six Nations, Morel replied:
“I don't think it's a question of what I would like or not. It's not currently a question.
“My understanding of it is that South Africa is committed to the Rugby Championship and at the same time, our focus right now is on the July and November windows and we believe that this could be a great platform to create global growth for the game, not just for our six unions and the Rugby Championship unions, but also for the rest of the countries involved in rugby.
“So the current focus is that. The Six Nations have added and reduced the number of teams in it in very few moments in its 140 years, so it's something we would be very cautious of before doing.”
Speculation is mounting that plans are being prepared for a Nations Championship to be introduced to the global calendar from 2024.
Morel insisted that if such a tournament was devised, the Six Nations are not concerned about it overshadowing their competition.
"No, we really see this as the perfect complement," the Six Nations boss said.
"The Six Nations is sort of top of the pyramid as an annual rugby event and our job is to make it bigger and bigger over time.
"At the same time, the July and November windows have traditionally been that international encounter with the rest of the world. So, we believe that this is actually a perfect complement to each other and should be able to contribute to growing the game on a global basis. There is no debate at that level."
Meanwhile, Morel confirmed that next year's Women's Six Nations will again take place in a separate window to the men's tournament, in a bid to ensure that it gets as much exposure as possible.
In a further welcome development, the Women's Six Nations will return to it's traditional format from 2022, with each team playing five games.
“The specific window and showcasing of the women's game and putting it in the limelight is something that we definitely want to continue,” Morel added.
“The Six Nations next year will be in a separate window, but coming back to its original format with five matches per union.
“So, that will be happening right after the men's. We will be announcing the precise fixtures surely
“At the same time, we believe this is a massive projector on the sport. We believe that it will be outstanding for its development.”