SANZAR’s alliance is on the edge of collapse as South Africa have admitted that they are looking at joining the Northern Hemisphere tournaments which would leave Australia and New Zealand to go it alone.
SA Rugby’s acting managing director Andy Marinos admitted to the Times in New Zealand that they were going to start “canvassing up north”.
The revelation comes just days after Australian Rugby Union boss John O’Neill fired more verbal shots at the South Africans by saying that they were stalling.
The New Zealand Rugby Union and ARU appear to have agreed on a way forward with the creation of a Super 15, SA Rugby continues to threaten to use its right of veto unless the changes are made on their terms.
This has led the NZRU and ARU to frustration where they have admitted that they too were looking to go it alone.
And Marinos said SA Rugby was now almost at that stage.
He said that he had: “made it very clear to Australia and New Zealand in our last meeting that we are going to start canvassing up north”.
Sanzar has until June the 30th to present their plan for the next five years of South African, Australian and New Zealand rugby to the broadcasters who fund all of the tournaments.
And with time rapidly running out, Marinos said SA Rugby wouldn’t hesitate to terminate its involvement with Sanzar if that was what was best for rugby in the republic.
“We’re doing everything in our power to ensure Sanzar stays alive, but we have to be realistic and work within the constraints we have,” he told The Times.
“We are approaching a critical point now.
“I’ve put forward a position and South Africa will hold that position.
“We have compromised and are in a serious stage of negotiation and all parties need to come to the party.
“They’ve been talking about a trans-Tasman/Asian structure so we must perhaps also look at what our options are.
“We will exhaust every avenue within Sanzar but if we can’t reach a compromise we’ll have no hesitation in looking to the north.”
A firm Marinos said that his words were anything but a threat and added that aligning themselves with Europe would bring with it some positives.
“For a lot of reasons it makes sense; the same time zones, it’s more attractive for broadcasters, less travel and there has been a resurgence of the strength of club rugby there because of the Heineken Cup,” Marinos said.
O’Neill and SA Rugby officials have not been on friendly terms for some time after a verbal bust up that took place in the media following the SANAR meeting in Dubai.
The relationship has since further soured since O’Neill’s verbal spat in the media blaming SA Rugby’s stance for delaying the possibility of an agreement being reached.
O’Neill has also taken issue with SA Rugby, saying it is not prepared to compromise for what he calls the better good of Super Rugby expansion.
And he has again raised the prospect of the ARU and NZRU moving on without South Africa.
“I think all the moving so far has been by Australia and New Zealand. That’s the truth of it,” he said.
“And I think you get to the point where you can’t move any more. We, Australia and New Zealand, have shifted.
“At this stage, all we have out of South Africa is the press release that came out, which I’ve held up to the light and I still don’t understand it.
“So I’m sure we’ll hear more this week, but it’s a very difficult negotiation.
“Inevitably, you always have to have a plan B.
“Our preference is still very much a Super 15, a round and a half, what we call the perfect outcome. We’ve been absolutely consistent about that.”
“If you end up in a complete impasse, well then we’ve got a game in Australia and New Zealand which requires a big chunk of mass entertainment product.
“And if it can’t include South Africa, then trans-Tasman-Asia Pacific options have to be looked at.”
However, Marinos has fired back, stating: “I take exception to the fact that Australia say they have ‘compromised’.
“I honestly can’t see what they have compromised on and in any new structure we agree on they’ll be getting more than they had.
“The only people compromising are those of us who have a competition structure to compromise (the Currie Cup and the Air New Zealand Cup).”
Australia have no significant domestic rugby tournament following the TriNations after O’Neill cancelled the Australian Rugby Championship after one poor financial season.
Since that time O’Neill has put almost all of his efforts into expanding the Super 14 – possibly at the expense of the quality of the rugby and the Currie Cup and the Air New Zealand Cup.
Courtesy of Rugbyweek.Tweet