INTERNATIONAL RUGBY OPTIONS
Jettisoned franchises could play in Europe
The two South African teams set to get the boot from Super Rugby could be absorbed elsewhere in international competitions.
SA Rugby president Mark Alexander told Business Day that the franchises, still to be determined, will not be deprived of international competition once Super Rugby’s boundaries are redrawn for 2018.
"We are looking at options‚" Alexander said. "These are things we have to explore because we cannot afford our franchises not to be playing in international competitions."
He was coy about revealing specific competitions.
"We can look at Europe‚ we can look at North America. The important thing is that these teams play in international competitions."
The least disruptive option would be for the Super Rugby outcasts to be lumped with the Pro12‚ the predominantly Celtic competition for club teams from Ireland‚ Scotland and Wales.
Two Italian teams were added to the 2010-11 competition which since the 2013-14 season carries the added carrot of European Champions Cup qualification.
Asked whether SA Rugby was considering entering teams in the Pro12, Alexander said: "Maybe a Pro14‚ maybe another Top14‚ I don’t know."
SA Rugby’s options in North America appear limited.
An attempt by the Professional Rugby Organisation (PRO Rugby) to launch the first professional rugby union competition in North America proved short-lived in 2016.
The five-team competition was launched in April 2016 but fell flat by January 2017 after Rugby Canada opted not to sanction teams under its aegis to play in the tournament.
Sanzaar’s decision to cull three teams from Super Rugby has met with stubborn resistance from the teams most likely to be shown the door.
"People say it will be the Cheetahs and the Kings‚ but nothing has been determined‚" said Alexander.
In Australia‚ the Western Force and the Melbourne Rebels have explored legal options to retain their position in Super Rugby. The Rebels are privately owned and there have been calls to block any attempt by the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) to buy it back.
Australia’s top players on Wednesday demanded an emergency meeting of the national governing body, saying the game was being damaged by "the fiasco" surrounding the axing of Super Rugby teams.
The ARU has said either the Force or Rebels will be culled, throwing the sport into disarray and causing anger.
The Force’s parent body, RugbyWA, has launched legal action while the Rebels have also made it clear they will seek compensation if disbanded.
With no end in sight, the Rugby Union Players’ Association (Rupa) agreed on Wednesday to join the Victorian Rugby Union (VRU) in seeking a special general meeting of the ARU.
Under the ARU’s constitution, such a meeting must be held if requested by two voting members, potentially bringing the crisis to a head.
"The ARU’s intent to axe an Australian Super Rugby team has lacked transparency and consultation with key stakeholders," said Rupa chief Ross Zenos in a statement. "Today’s unanimous Rupa board resolution illustrates the commitment of players from all across the country to take action towards a constructive solution to this ongoing fiasco."
TMG Digital with additional reporting by AFP