The reported agreement between the three SANZAR partners on the continuation and expansion of the Super Rugby competition, after last week’s give-and-take negotiations in Dublin, are certain to upset South Africa’s so-called smaller provincial unions.
The Afrikaans Sunday Paper Rapport reports that the 14 provincial unions will be informed on Monday that South Africa’s concessions, in what was a stalemate, include an investigation to reduce the Premier Division Currie Cup competition by two to six sides; forfeiting (at least) one of the annual incoming Tests before the Tri-Nations series and agreeing to the start of the proposed Super 15 only at the end of February and not earlier in the month.
Before last week’s meeting, the other two partners of SANZAR, New Zealand and Australia, were not prepared to start playing in February – and they insisted that the Super series be enlarged to include 15 sides.
With the proposed conference system, whereby each country will play its own league phase of the Super 15 before the six sides – the top two from each conference – then meet in a play-off series, the Currie Cup competition would have been compromised.
There was also a proposal that the Super 15 would continue throughout the Tri-Nations competition.
These proposals were unacceptable to South Africa, and threats about obtaining other partners for revised competitions were made to and fro by the three partners.
The exclusion, if that is approved, of two more of the non-franchise unions from the Currie Cup Premier Division is certain to upset the smaller unions.
Playing in the Premier Division is a way for those two teams to earn some income from gate money when they host the bigger unions.
However, in reality, their contribution to the competition over the past number of years has been limited to providing some second-stringers on loan from the bigger unions a look-in at the big time, and to cause the odd surprise in the league.
With the Premier Division being reduced to six sides, the First Division will then be enlarged to eight sides – if of course the investigation finds this a feasible alternative to the present structure.
The smaller unions will not give up without a tremendous fight.
They have enough clout to make a real fight of it should it come to a vote at SARU.
According to Rapport, who quotes an unnamed “reliable” overseas source, it was agreed that the Super 14 will be expanded to a Super 15 in 2011 – and even if the additional side comes from South Africa, it will still be based in Australia and play their “home” matches there.