Super Rugby changes 'short-sighted'

Last updated 05:00 25/02/2014
Ellis Park

BUMS ON SEATS: Sanzar's decision to increase South Africa's team count in Super Rugby to six seems to be all about audience size. Pictured: Ellis Park, Johannesburg.

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Super Rugby will expand from 15 teams to 17 teams in 2016. A sixth South African franchise joins, alongside a maiden team from Argentina.

Argentina thoroughly deserves a place in the competition. As a member of the Rugby Championship this is surely their right.

The Pumas have performed with great distinction in the professional era. They have beaten England, Australia, France, Scotland, Ireland, Wales and Italy, some of those countries several times, and held South Africa and the Lions to draws.

In 2007, Argentina finished third in the World Cup.

Those results are almost miraculous given Argentina's top players are almost exclusively based in Europe and the local competition is essentially amateur.

A Super Rugby franchise in Argentina will have obvious benefits for the game in that country. The chance to increase playing depth, create revenue for the sport and aspiration for future players are all positive outcomes.

The same can't be said about South Africa's sixth team. The fifth team has been a perennial poison chalice.

The Central Cheetahs originally came into the competition in 2006 after the Southern Spears, a financially unstable entity to start with, settled out of court in a legal dispute claiming they had the right to be the fifth team.

The Cheetahs have been poor performers winning only 42 of their 126 games. They have made the playoffs once in eight full seasons.

In fact, on performance alone, South Africa can hardly justify a fourth tea, let alone a sixth.

The Lions, or the Cats, or whatever, have been last six times and only won 53 out of 210 games.

They were so bad in 2013 they were kicked out of the competition and replaced by the Southern Kings, who guess what, were last, before they died and the Lions came back.

Sanzar is short-sighted. They are chasing short term TV dollars instead of doing something that will actually improve the competition and the game worldwide.

If expansion is a priority why not add a Pacific Islands team? I hear the, "it won't make money" cry.

Why not base it in Auckland where the Polynesian population is huge, especially in the south?

The commercial setting is better and Mount Smart Stadium or Eden Park are two fine venues in which to play.

Once established, with say three selectors one each from Fiji, Samoa and Tonga, where presumably most of the team will come, the team could play an occasional fixture in Suva, Apia or Nuku'alofa.

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The team would be really talented. Any fool who watches rugby knows and admires how many talented Polynesians there are playing the game. With a little bit of infrastructure and opportunity, rugby in the islands would explode.

On the subject of the islands, when was the last time the Wallabies, Springboks or All Blacks played a test in Apia, Suva or Nuku'alofa?

Oh, and when will Super Rugby get a Colts competition similar to the Holden Cup?

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