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Your understanding is correct. Tableau Online cannot connect to a BW data source natively. You'll have to put the data into some kind of intermediate data store for Tableau Bridge to use.
Alternatively, you could use Tableau Server instead. But that is usually a higher cost option (both up front and from a long-term maintenance perspective).
Alteryx can connect to BW and output a TDE or Hyper file for Tableau to use, or populate a relational database with the extracted data.
Browsing posts related to SAP BW and Tableau bridge brought me here. I see that the original post is dated around Jun 2018. Does Tableau have any solution for accessing SAP BW data via Tableau bridge? Is this a Tableau or a SAP BW limitation? Extracting BW data into a relational datastore is a work-around, however, it defeats the original purpose. Not to mention the extra level of complexity it adds in the form of creating an additional relational DB & extraction layers. Appreciate any feedback. I did vote for this feature using the link https://community.tableau.com/ideas/8537