South Africa’s threat to defect to northern hemisphere competitions remains a bluff, says Australian Rugby Union (ARU) chief executive John O’Neill, as the Sanzar nations try to thrash out a Super rugby solution in Dublin this week.
The NZPA reports that after negotiations which O’Neill said had dragged on for almost a year, he will join New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) chief executive Steve Tew and South African officials on Friday in a bid to resolve the impasse which has left a proposed Super 15 in limbo.
Australia and New Zealand have discussed an alternative trans-Tasman competition for 2011, while South Africa has said it intends to head north if its demands are not met.
“That’s been a long-held bluff, in my view. From all the enquiries we’ve made, we believe there isn’t an exit for them in the north,” O’Neill told Sydney radio station 2KY today.
“What has happened is Australia and New Zealand, out of pure frustration, have worked on a trans-Tasman competition which does work, with five or six teams from Australia and five or six from New Zealand.
“It’s a Super 10 or Super 12, played over two rounds, and bringing in Japan in a couple of years time. It’s a pretty elegant solution.
“The roles have changed in that we have a plan B and I’m not sure South Africa do.”
A major sticking point remained South Africa’s refusal to shift its domestic Currie Cup competition in the calendar, meaning Super rugby would start in February and cover a similar time frame to its current schedule.
Australia and New Zealand want the extended three-conference Super 15 competition to run from March to August, with the Tri-Nations tests to follow.
O’Neill also objected to South Africa pushing for a sixth team, which would play in the Australian conference.
He said the 15th team should come from Australia, with Melbourne and Gold Coast contenders, and there was potential for it to be a joint venture franchise with New Zealand.
“On a couple of occasions we thought we’d had an agreement but the South Africans have changed their minds. They’re very unpredictable,” O’Neill said.
“We don’t want South Africa to drop out of Super rugby, we want them to stay in, but the conditions they’re attaching to their participation are, in our view, unreasonable.”
The Sanzar board meeting needs to come up with a 2011 competition proposal for a new broadcasting deal to News Ltd and SuperSport by June 30.
O’Neill said Australia was in the most competitive football market in the world, including the Australian Football League, National Rugby League and A-League soccer, and a 24-week Super competition followed by Tri-Nations tests was a “compelling product”.
The Dublin meeting will also dovetail with the International Rugby Board’s rules forum to decide how many of the Experimental Law Variations (ELVs) will be adopted.
O’Neill was confident most of the Super 14 ELVs would be approved, but not the most controversial one.
“We’re basically going to get up on 10 out of 13 (ELVs) but we’ve lost out on the sanctions, the short arm (free kick) versus the long arm (penalty).
“Those votes will go along party lines. England, Ireland and Wales never even trialled those ELVs so the likelihood of them voting for them was never going to happen.
“It’s time to move on, just settle on one set of laws.”Tweet