Super Rugby is set to undergo significant changes to its structure and the general consensus is that the Southern Kings and Cheetahs are the two South African teams destined to be knocked out of the competition.
I simply don’t believe it’s fair to base a decision around past statistics. In my opinion, it’s completely the wrong line of thinking. I would argue that it’s not what you have done before that counts, because that’s not how relegation should work. It’s all about how you perform in the present. A team’s value to Super Rugby should be determined by how competitive they are now.
The Kings are displaying a definite upward curve in terms of performance – they pushed the Sharks close in their last encounter – and head coach Deon Davids is doing a really good job with the Port Elizabeth-based franchise.
Meanwhile, Franco Smith is someone whom I have been impressed with in my interactions with him. He is creating a winning culture in Bloemfontein and is aiming to build on their Currie Cup success. We shouldn’t be so sure that it will be the Kings and Cheetahs who will be cut because, with Sanzaar yet to announce its decision, it could be someone else that gets pulled.
For my money, the franchises that fail to perform and finish on the bottom of their respective conferences should be axed for a year. They will then play in a second-tier competition where they will have an opportunity to earn promotion to Super Rugby. The objective of the Currie Cup – in South Africa’s case – would see the top four-placed teams qualify to compete at Super Rugby level.
There is no denying that Super Rugby has become a rather cumbersome competition since I last played for the Stormers in 2000. At that point in history, the tournament was known as the Super 12 and New Zealand was represented by five teams, South Africa four and Australia three. The round-robin format made far more sense than the current conference system, which doesn’t enhance the product, and interest was piqued as the play-off battles ensured a strength-versus-strength scenario.
While the short-term solution for South Africa is to remain part of Super Rugby because there is a broadcast deal in place until 2020, I would urge SA Rugby to explore the option of joining a northern hemisphere competition at some point.
With SA Rugby serving as the primary funder of Sanzaar, we can no longer afford to have a situation whereby the tail wags the dog and we subsidise other organisations.
SA Rugby possesses the resources and must make use of their clout going forward. I don’t agree with the notion that we should be helping to build rugby in Argentina and Japan through a structure which we largely fund. I don’t believe it’s our problem to solve and from my point of view enough has already been done in order to develop rugby in those regions.
The Sunwolves should be in a competition with Fiji, Samoa, Tonga and the Australasian teams owing to sharing similar time zones. And the perfect bet would be for South African teams to head north.
If it was up to me, I wouldn’t think twice. Moreover, with confirmation of a global season from 2020 onwards, we could potentially see the north and south clash in a mini-world tournament at the end of the season. The proposed plan would excite me as a rugby lover and it would represent the best of both worlds for SA rugby.
The 1995 Rugby World Cup-winner has enjoyed an illustrious playing and coaching career. He proved highly successful during his time as Saracens’ director of rugby and guided the Sharks to Currie Cup triumph in 2013. Venter now practises as a medical doctor, is a technical consultant to London Irish and served as Italy’s defence coach during the Six Nations. Follow him on Twitter: @BrendanVenter