One way to check whether anyone at Sanzaar is at the office is for the media to report changes to the Super Rugby competition before they’ve been officially confirmed.
“We have not reached any definitive decisions around our future competition,” Super Rugby CEO Andy Marinos said in a Sanzaar press release on Tuesday.
This came in response to reports that the game’s Southern Hemisphere partners had discussed a handful of options in November during a visit to Dublin for a World Rugby meeting.
According to said reports, Super Rugby may revert to a 14-team, round robin competition in 2021 – at the expense of the Sunwolves – when the current broadcast deal expires. This would eliminate the disastrous conference system which only benefitted those teams in the same group as the Sunwolves, and whoever’s turn it was not to play the Crusaders or Hurricanes each season.
“The recent reports in the media around the next iteration of the Super Rugby tournament are nothing more than speculative,” added Marinos. “As a business we are presently looking at our future competition structures from 2021 onwards. We have not reached any definitive decisions around our future competition including the number of teams that will participate in the future structure.
“We will continue to engage with our stakeholders, specifically the national unions (Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa) and our broadcasters, as we plan ahead for the future and the next broadcast cycle that commences in 2021.
“If there are any changes to our structure we will communicate this at the appropriate time.”
Some would argue that the appropriate time to communicate restorative measures passed in 2011 when nothing was done to reverse the switch to a conference system that many warned would be a disaster, but Sanzaar appear to be in no rush to retain what remains of their audience with assurances that there are fail-safe plans afoot to restore Super Rugby to its former glory.
History suggests that Sanzaar is short-sighted and ostensibly out to make a quick buck at any cost. That would explain the way Super Rugby has been driven into the ground over the past decade as Sanzaar has flattened the audience in a mad drag race to give broadcasters as much rugby content as possible – even when that meant adding a “Japanese” franchise that fielded foreign nationals and played a chunk of their matches in Singapore.
There’s no precedent for a quartet of partners co-piloting a professional sports league from opposite ends of the globe, especially now that ubiquitous live-streaming has negated the original novelty of Super Rugby’s unique appeal – watching the likes of the Sharks battle their Antipodean rivals in Wellington at 9am on a Friday morning.
Sanzaar’s eagerness to cater for cash-flush broadcasters has led to the decimation of Super Rugby’s once-fervent audience, at the stadiums and in front of the telly. And, with the writing on the wall, South Africa showed great agility to hastily connect with Europe through the Pro14, while rugby in Australia may again be rescued by a businessman in the form of billionaire mining magnate Andrew Forrest and his rebel Indo-Pacific league.
— Staff Writer