Super axe great for SA Rugby – Jake

Jake White

Reducing the number of Super Rugby teams is a great decision and it may be the catalyst for South African rugby to lead the way again.

We often criticise rugby’s leadership, but the fact that Sanzaar have identified a problem, and are trying to resolve it, is a massive boost. The guys at the top deserve kudos for realising that the product they were trying to deliver through expansion is just not good enough.

The decision-makers have taken on board what they’ve heard from the stakeholders and, in this case, the message is clear – less is more.

I’m not sure that the solutions that the Sanzaar partners will come up with are going to be the right ones, but the main thing is they’ve recognised that, among several issues, the tournament is unfair, depending on which pool you’re in and how many games you play away from home.

The competition organisers are sitting on a pile of historical data which shows that when it was Super 6, Super 10 and Super 12, those were very, very good tournaments.

At the start, we didn’t have franchises like the Stormers, Lions and the Highlanders, it was Western Province, Transvaal and Otago.

I remember watching Queensland at the time that they had Wallaby centres Tim Horan and Jason Little; that Reds team was very powerful at Ballymore.

It was the same when the Natal Sharks would play Otago, and the Auckland Blues of that time – with Jonah Lomu, Joeli Vidiri and Lee Stensness – that wasn’t a bad provincial team!

And most of the guys who played for South Africa in the 1995 Rugby World Cup were with Kitch Christie at Transvaal in those days.

People often don’t want to hear “in the old days”, but the point is that the history of this competition shows that was a great product.

This Super Rugby trim will obviously be very distressing for the people who stand to lose their jobs, but in all fairness, I think most would agree that there should never have been an expansion of the competition.

Deciding who gets cut is difficult and, while I don’t have the answers, I do know that you’re going to have stronger teams with more depth, and the competition will be better because you’ll be playing strength versus strength.

For the Australians, we’ll have to see whether it’s last-in-first-out for the Rebels, and in South Africa we’ll have to make some tough decisions.

The real debate should be around how we will package those four Super Rugby teams from a South African point of view.

Maybe history shows that we should go back to rewarding the top four sides in the Currie Cup. This would add credence to our domestic competition, though you have to consider the difficulties of finding sponsors when a team’s Super Rugby status is annually up for review.

Or maybe coastal provinces should be clustered into two franchises and the Highveld unions into the other two?

Regardless, our decision-makers mustn’t be scared to look at change if it means it’s going to help the Springboks in the long-term. And that’s what makes me think this change may be the first step in South African rugby taking great strides forward.

I say that because we’re going to have to find a way to keep our top 160 players in the country, and make sure that they’re all taken care of, well coached and that they’re all happy with the set up, while also making sure the sponsors are happy.

Maybe we need a director of rugby, someone like Rassie Erasmus, who can determine who the coaches are, balance the squads and coaching staffs, and put the various structures in place.

The challenge, in terms of sustainability, is to make sure that the next tier is up to scratch so that there’s not a void left behind when those 160 players move on. That’s where you need a director of rugby to make sure there are pathways for players and coaches to progress along.

If we can get the best out of these four teams, with our top players playing and the best coaches coaching them, SA Rugby will be leaders in Super Rugby again.

- Jake White

Let's chat

  • Steve Morris

    Promotion/relegation between super rugby and currie cup. Annual cycle in which top/bottom rankings identify 2 teams for a play-off. Fair, dramatic and avoids administrators playing god.

    Sponsors commitment can be transferable to replacement team for first year after promotion/relegation, sponsors choice. Something like that.

    • Sharky

      I’d go one step further. I’ve said that SANZAAR need to create a two tier tournament (Premier Division and Second Division) with 10 to 12 teams in each division. Have automatic promotion relegation between the two bottom Premier Division times and two top Second Division teams with “golden parachute” payments from SANZAAR to the relegated teams to help ease the financial hit.

      This means that we keep all the existing teams (and even expand into Hong Kong, South America and the Pacific Islands) and ensure strength vs strength. Also, people will be more interested in a Sunwolves vs Rebels game if they are playing for promotion.

  • Dylan Smith

    AGREE to much invested in current franchises

  • Dylan Smith

    In addition to the top franchises possibly a privatly owned club level competition so as to attract more players and offer a wider selection of professionaly institutionalised players to the larger franchises. We may also be able to maintain a few more of our departing players that either are not picked for the franchise sides or are entering the industry from school level.

  • anthony

    I strongly disagree with Jakes comments. Finances aside, no reasonably sane person can believe it better to have less players exposed to Super rugby. I re-iterate that from a no-financial point of view, we would never have been able to develop or even come across some of the exciting talent showcased in the Eastern Cape and Free State areas. They would simply be excess players who would have to ply their trade overseas.
    The viewership has only gone down because of too many local derbies. Our guys need to compete against the best to improve, so by providing less opportunities i think we have shot ourselves in the foot.
    If we could not financially sustain 6 sides but only 4 then it implies that there will be approximately 60 talented players lost to SA without any improvement into the financial system.

    • Basil

      Sort of agree with you Anthony. Local teams ONLY play overseas teams (ALL!)

  • Shane S

    The toughest rugby competition in the World:

    New Zealand – 5 Teams
    South Africa – 4 Teams
    Australia – 4 Teams

    How is this good for anybody but New Zealand and All Black Rugby?
    Why did they come to this decision? What are the numbers that guided this (viewership/finances etc).
    Has anybody seen the numbers?

    • Sharky

      The numbers aren’t the problem, the problem is that we are keeping the conference system with the two local derbies a year in order to appease the Aussies and provide them with the domestic competition that they haven’t been able to establish themselves.

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