The biggest story of the 2017 Super Rugby season is very much boardroom related. An announcement about the future of the competition is expected shortly and a reduction in the number of teams from Australia and South Africa is the hot topic.
I’d like to see at least two teams giving way, and maybe even a third one at a push, but for South Africa there are political, financial and technical factors that need looking at.
From a technical point of view, at least one Australian team has to go. In 17 combined campaigns, the Force and Rebels have a total of two winning seasons and no playoff appearances. That is simply unacceptable.
Since 2006, the Reds and Waratahs have each won a title, while the Brumbies have made a playoff nuisance of themselves on top of the two gongs they got in 2001 and 2004.
Amid this success, the posers from Perth and Melbourne have, at worst, been a sideshow affecting the quality of the Aussie conference, while at best providing a shock result here and there.
They’d be better suited merging to form a stronger outfit, or even better, be scrapped and see the distribution of talent among the founding Aussie sides.
And the Waratahs, Brumbies and Reds could use at least four talented players each from the Rebels and Force to entertain the thought of winning Super Rugby again.
Politically, South Africa is in a fix. The Southern Kings are currently a glorified Currie Cup outfit only good for boosting opposing teams’ bonus point and points differential brackets.
However, that is all down to terrible administration in spite of being located in the Eastern Cape, one of the richest talent factories on earth. They are also a potentially brilliant tool for transformation, with the province boasting the highest participation of non-white players in the land.
These are the only justifiable reasons for them surviving the chop, which could unfairly befall everyone’s second favourite team, the Cheetahs.
Counting against the Kings is an unconvincing financial position, and with sponsors hardly throwing money at them and scandal-ridden EP Rugby having recently come out of administration, their status as a sideshow cannot be tolerated any longer.
Truthfully, the Kings would serve the nation better if the union released players for Super Rugby elsewhere, and they then returned to Port Elizabeth for the Currie Cup, like it was before.
Until such time as they are stable, the Kings need a timeout from the competition.
The Cheetahs add value as a highly entertaining team to the Super Rugby product and I don’t see why they should go.
Their main challenge is hanging onto players that are poached by the other top unions, and for them to remain competitive in the face of this is admirable.
It goes without saying that any decision to trim the competition will be very unpopular in the affected regions, but the numbers do not lie. The eyes on televisions and bums on stadium seats are dropping unabated.
Kings… you are the weakest link. Goodbye!
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