Australia and New Zealand could be looking for a new partner in rugby soon which may or may not include Japan after rumours have surfaced again that South Africa are considering looking to play their Super Rugby elsewhere.
Article Courtesy of Rugbyweek.com
The Australian reports that the upper echelons of Australia and New Zealand rugby are buzzing with the rumour that South Africa is negotiating to take its five teams – the Bulls, Stormers, Sharks, Cheetahs and Lions – out of the southern hemisphere competition once the SANZAR broadcast agreement expires next year and put them into the Magners League.
Former South African rugby managing director Rian Oberholzer, the man rumoured to be negotiating with the Magners League which is the Celtic League involving 10 major provincial teams from Ireland, Wales and Scotland, told The Australian yesterday he had no involvement in such a scheme.
Oberholzer may be denying his involvement in the scheme but it was him that negotiated South Africa’s entry into an expanded Celtic League contest called the Rainbow Cup back in 2005, the year the most recent SANZAR broadcast deal was signed.
Back in 2005, Australia and New Zealand were kept in the dark about the Rainbow Cup negotiations and eventually former South African Rugby president Brian van Rooyen was forced to confirm the rumours over the board table at a SANZAR summit.
Thankfully for SANZAR the Rainbow Cup never happened because of financial difficulties in Europe at the time but ever since the two trans-Tasman neighbours have been bracing themselves for another attempt by South Africa to join the Magners League, the only provincial-based series among the major European competitions.
The Australian says that Australia and New Zealand have been on full alert in recent months with the clock ticking down to the June 30 deadline when SANZAR must present its proposal for an ongoing southern hemisphere competition to its major broadcast partner, News Corporation.
Everytime a broadcast deal draws near South Africa turn up the heat about how they get the raw end of the stick and how their teams are disadvantaged by all the extra traveling they are forced to do in the Super 14.
The Rainbow/Magners league deal would involve overnight flights to Britain but it would still be in the same time zone and crucially it would mean that South Africa would get larger television audiences back in South Africa and that converts to more money.
Their bottom line would be a lot healthier and in today’s time that counts for a lot.
Strangely though there is little talk of South Africa pulling out of the TriNations part of the SANZAR partnership.
At present Australia appear to be putting all of their energies into an expanded Super15 tournament that will be played over an extended period of time filling their calendar.
South Africa though want to launch a new Super Rugby team in the Eastern Cape making it six teams for South African even though two of their teams regularly finish at the bottom of the Super 14 table.
One would think that the ARU would hardly be happy with having just four teams while their partners have five and six teams.
If South Africa do pull out of Super Rugby then it would make sense for Australia and New Zealand to include Fiji, Tonga and Samoa and even Argentina as replacements but in the current financial climate that may be difficult without the money that South Africa would bring in.
As South Africa’s home matches are played in the same or similar time zone as Europe they bring more to the table in broadcasting terms than their partners so a new tournament without South Africa would take a big financial hit.
Ironically, Australia and New Zealand might actually do better out of such a deal than it does from an “all systems go” Super15 according to the Australian.
South Africa takes up around $8 million of SANZAR’s annual $11 million transport and accommodation budget. What’s more, although the three SANZAR partners share an equal one-third of costs, Australia is allocated only a quarter of the income.
South Africa also divert 95 per cent of SuperSport’s television money flow to the sport directly into its own coffers and they take the lion’s share of the SANZAR spoils. And rumour has it that they want more.
So from one perspective there might very well be an element of “good riddance” if South Africa does decide to play their Lions, Cheetahs, Bulls, Sharks and Stormers elsewhere.
There is also the possibility that South Africa may have started rumours of them leaving Super Rugby as a bluff to ensure that they get the 15th Super Rugby team rather than Australia, New Zealand or Japan in a kind of “give us what we want or we will leave” scenario.
SANZAR will no doubt shortly issue a statement saying that all is well ahead of the next SANZAR board meeting in Dubai on March the 4th but behind the scenes it looks like there is a lot of negotiating to be done.Tweet