Cape Town – South African Rugby Union president Oregan Hoskins says he wants a 17-team Super Rugby competition in 2016 with less debilitating derbies and an Argentine team in the mix.
Saru will table Hoskins’s proposal at a Sanzar meeting next week. The proposal will see the current 15 teams, as well as the Southern Kings from Port Elizabeth and a new side from Argentina playing against each other once, with the double round of local derbies being done away with.
There has been months of speculation as to which Super Rugby format Sanzar would implement when a new broadcast deal takes effect from 2016, with options varying from the status quo of 15 sides in three conferences to a 20-team competition including outfits from as far afield as Japan, the Pacific Islands and USA, as well as a two-conference system.
But Hoskins told the Cape Times on Tuesday that Saru wants to heed the concerns of the top players in the country who feel that they have to play too many high-intensity matches in a season, while the spectator interest in the double round of local derbies in the conferences is also on the decline.
That is why the president feels a 17-team round-robin format is the best scenario for South African rugby. Saru’s delegates – deputy president Mark Alexander and chief executive Jurie Roux – will attend a Sanzar meeting in Dublin next week, on the sidelines of the International Rugby Board’s biennial General Assembly meeting, where it is hoped that a final decision on the future Super Rugby format will be made.
“My personal opinion – and I will canvass our franchises about this and I would think that they would support our proposal – our firm mandate is that we need to push as hard as possible for what is in the best interest of South African rugby, which is a 17-team competition. The two additional teams would be the Kings and a team from Argentina,” said Hoskins, who is also the IRB’s vice-chairman.
“I personally would love to see this 17-team competition where we all play each other, because less is actually more. That is the buzzword at the moment. But we are careful not to alienate Argentina because we fought for them to come in. If they can’t make a team for Super Rugby, then that’s their problem.
“But we must say ‘Let’s go for a 17-team competition and include Argentina’. That is my personal choice and I’m hoping that the franchises will be happy with that idea – that we mandate our two delegates in that way for the Sanzar meeting next week.”
Earlier this week, the New Zealand Players’ Association stated that their members would prefer that all Super Rugby teams play each other from 2016 onwards, and Hoskins said that their South African counterparts felt the same.
A player like Springbok and Stormers captain Jean de Villiers has played almost non-stop rugby this year, having started his season with a Super Rugby warm-up game in February, while he is currently leading the Boks on a three-Test tour of Europe.
“I don’t think a split conference would help South Africa. We need to play against one another. We are overkilled on the local derby thing – people are not attending those games anymore,” Hoskins said.
“Our players’ association is asking for less matches, and the derby matches (aren’t working). If you look at it, it’s a double round of Super Rugby, plus it’s the Currie Cup, so it’s four times a year that our teams are playing each other. And the people are saying ‘No, thank you, we are not going to spend anymore money’. So let’s look at ‘Less is more’.”
While most of Argentina’s stars are playing in Europe currently, it is understood that they would be encouraged by their Sanzar partners to bring back those players over the next two years to ensure that the Argentine team is strong enough to be competitive in Super Rugby.
It is believed that a 17-team round-robin format would also see the extra playoff match being discarded, with the top four sides on the log going straight into the semi-finals.