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Super split 'some way off'

Sat, 27 Jul 2013 10:49
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Six SA franchises are of paramount importance to SARU
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Reports of a proposed 'split' between South African and their Australasian partners are still "some way off", but remains a reality.

It was reported in the Australian media on Saturday that Australia and New Zealand would form their own Australasian competition - one of a number of scenarios being considered by SANZAR.

Under one of three proposals being discussed among the SANZAR members (South Africa, New Zealand and Australia), SA would split from their Australasian rivals and start a competition with Argentina and some European nations.

It was reported that Australian and New Zealand franchises would include an Asian side (or sides) in their version.

SANZAR Chief Executive Greg Peters, speaking to this website in the wake of the Australian reports, said they are  "still some way off" a final decision - without confirming or denying any of the reported scenarios.

"The end result will as always involve working together to achieve a result that strikes a balance between the various imperatives of the three [SANZAR] unions," Peters said.

He confirmed that they are working on "a number of future scenarios".

"This is against a range of principles agreed by all three SANZAR Unions, including a fundamental one of South Africa having six teams in the future structure.

"Player welfare is also a significant consideration," Peters told this website.

''The challenge is with a limited number of weeks in the year, how do you create a competition that has integrity in its structure, keeps everyone involved and satisfies the needs of the three main countries?''

Peters added that all "scenarios" are for 2016 onwards.

While the proposal would only take effect when the new broadcasting rights deal clicks in in 2016, it has been reported that  SANZAR wants to have a decision agreed by the end of this year to give all parties enough time to plan under the new framework.

It is reported the push has been engineered by the South African Rugby Union, who have two teams, the Kings and Lions, locked in a promotion-relegation battle to decide which one takes the country's fifth spot in Super Rugby next year.

The Lions won the first leg 26-19 in Port Elizabeth on Friday and will have a huge advantage in the second leg in Johannesburg next Saturday.

SARU Chief Executive Jurie Roux confirmed that a six-team South African conference is key to their proposal.

"Having six South African franchises in any post-2015 scenario is of paramount importance for SARU," Roux told this website.

"SANZAR is aware of that and we're looking at various options as a collective."

If SARU gets their way and enlarge their number to six teams, it would make the conference system unworkable.

The Australian and New Zealand franchises were comfortable with the current format, which certainly suited them - particularly the Australians, who do not have a domestic competition to keep players active in the second half of the year.

While the Australasians were said have wanted some "minor tweaks", they are not keen on giving South Africa a greater representation and would look to split SANZAR rather than give up their much-loved 'derby' system under the current format.

It is believed a trans-Tasman competition, even with the inclusion of an Asian team, could lead to more derbies.

However, it is known that South Africa provide the biggest value in terms of television rights, so it would be interesting to see how much money broadcasters would be willing to fork out if SA franchises go it alone.

The player-welfare issue will also mean a shorter season will be a more desirable option, which a split will bring.

By Jan de Koning

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