What does the future of Super Rugby hold?
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SANZAAR (South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Argentina rugby) met on Friday 10th March in London to map out the future of Super Rugby.
As far as I'm concerned, SANZAAR's desire to continuously expand Super Rugby, which has forced the use of ridiculous conference systems, has harmed this competition.
To those who disagree, if it hasn't, then why have they had a meeting to discuss what to do about the competition?
Of the three original nations that made up SANZAAR, the NZRU have been the best at keeping their house in order and as a result, at least four of their five franchises start every season with a strong chance of winning the title.
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So here's what I think about Australia, South Africa and Japan.
The Australian market is extremely cluttered, with rugby currently dragging its heels behind the AFL, NRL and probably even the A-League.
It is such a difficult market to compete in for attendees at games and viewers on the TV, so it is very concerning for them that their teams aren't performing that well.
Do they need five teams? With five teams their depth seems too stretched and the Rebels in particular are susceptible to being thrashed if they suffer too many injuries, which are part and parcel of this sport.
The Western Force are also under-performing in this competition and have done since their inclusion in 2006. They are under threat of elimination as much as the Rebels are.
The problem child in the SANZAAR relationship.
They demanded a sixth franchise which resulted in the Kings being reintroduced into Super Rugby last year after having a single season in 2013.
The Kings are a political inclusion to keep the SARU and South African government happy, yet they have next to no support at home games and are struggling - they can leak tries like a sieve.
The other problem for South Africa is their continued insistence of picking players from overseas, many of whom are aging stars playing club rugby.
The Rand is comparatively weak against the Euro, Pound and Yen so they are kind of forced into implementing their current policy because they are losing players anyway.
This makes a mockery of them having six franchises, especially since their player depth was hammered by the post World Cup exodus in 2015.
They may provide the bulk of the revenue through TV broadcasting but they can't sustain six teams in the current climate.
The only reason why a team from the northern hemisphere is in the southern hemisphere's premier franchise/club competition is because SANZAAR wants to tap into the potential money well of Japanese rugby.
The Sunwolves themselves had next to no preparation time and have been given a hopeless schedule. They've already leaked a few cricket scores since they were included and will likely leak a few more this year.
Japan caused a major shock in the 2015 World Cup when they beat the Springboks, but I don't see why they deserve to have a team in Super Rugby when they are not part of SANZAAR.
So here's what I hope happens:
1. South Africa drops the Kings and Australia drops either the Force or Rebels.
2. The Sunwolves are cut from Super Rugby.
3. A round robin format with 15 teams is reintroduced at the expense of the ridiculous conference formats.
If these things are achieved and we no longer have a convoluted, messy and ridiculous format squeezed into too tight a window then Super Rugby could get reinvigorated.
I fully expect SANZAAR to do the complete opposite, but I hold hope that I get proven right!
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