'We have always been very interested in South Africa. We like them and see them as a key part of our future. The tournament works well at the moment but could work better if you added teams to it.' – Martin Anayi, Guinness Pro 14 CEO
FURTHER nails are being hammered into the coffin of Super Rugby after additional reports from New Zealand and Australia yesterday confirmed that the two countries are hammering out an alliance of sorts that does not include South Africa and Argentina.
Also last night, Guinness Pro 14 CEO Martin Anayi told Welsh reporters that greater South African participation in the competition would be welcomed.
The Pro 14 comprises four teams from Ireland, four from Wales, two from Scotland, two from Italy and South Africa’s Cheetahs and Kings.
The word from Wales, though, is that the latter two teams are to be replaced by the Stormers, Sharks, Lions and Bulls.
Anayi all but confirmed greater South African inclusion when he said: “We have always been very interested in South Africa.
“We like them and see them as a key part of our future. The tournament works well at the moment but could work better if you added teams to it. So that’s one avenue potentially.”
The Pro 14 chief’s comments comes after the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) revealed (via tip-offs from Rugby Australia insiders) that New Zealand Rugby’s board is split over a new competition structure involving the two countries and a Pacific islands team.
Hardliners on the NZR board want an eight-team competition, featuring the five existing Kiwis franchises, Fiji or Samoa (or a combination with Tonga), and just two Australian teams. They want this competition to be strength versus strength and not been watered down by the weaker Aussie teams.
Others on the NZR board are OK with a 10-team competition comprising the five Kiwi teams, the four current Aussie teams plus the Islanders.
The SMH says that RA is considering a glamorous alternative to the trans-Tasman competition based on cricket’s Big Bash in Australia. The five Aussie teams would be boosted by star players from around the world and notably from South Africa, Argentina and Japan.
All of this conjecture about the future of Super Rugby stems from NZR’s “Aratipu” review into the competition. The review was recently completed and elements of it were leaked to the media.
The review apparently recommends the dissolution of Super Rugby but is OK with Sanzaar continuing to oversee the Rugby Championship in its current format.
To that end, Sanzaar CEO Andy Marinos said from Sydney earlier this week that the organisation is confident it can deliver the Championship this year, and it would likely be based in Australia.
“At this stage we are looking at the back-end of October, into November and probably early December,” Marinos said. “We need eight weeks.”
SA Rugby, meanwhile, is keeping tight-lipped on the developments. A spokesman said: “There are a number of competition and broadcast contracts in place for the next southern and northern hemisphere rugby seasons.
“The uncertainty created by the pandemic has led to some conjecture, but the status quo remains unchanged.”