A quick glance at the IRB world rankings will tell you that the Tri Nations teams are the best in the world, this has been so for a long time with only England and France being anything close to real threats to that dominance. Why then are players leaving Super 14 teams in their droves to play for European teams and to a lesser extent Japanese teams.
The answer lies simply in finances.
The Southern Hemisphere unions are simply not in a strong enough financial position to compete with European or even Japanese teams. This is in stark contrast to the beginning of the professional era where the Super 12 was the epitomy of the new exciting age of professionalism in the rugby world with bonus points and running rugby the order of the day, while the old dinosaurs in the North shook their heads at their Southern colleagues so eagerly embracing that which they fought a hundred years to oppose.
You may not know that professionalism was what caused the split between Rugby League and Union and the opposition to a Rugby Union World Cup from the North centred mainly around the fear that the game would become professional. So, it made sense that the South would embrace professionalism more than the North.
What is the situation now? With dwindling crowds in Australia and New Zealand, the finances of the world’s premier regional competition are starting to dry up. According to what I have heard, the South African part of SANZAR is the only one making any sort of profit. This is another reason why the Melbourne Rebels were awarded a franchies over the Kings, quite simply SANZAR needed the money.
Don’t be fooled by Southern Hemisphere players returning to their nations of birth lately, they want to play in the world cup and then leave again. In the past a few quality international players from the South would finish their careers in Europe, nowadays you have players in their prime plying their trade in Europe good examples of this include Jerry Collins and Carl Hayman who would probably be first choice players for the All Blacks if they were playing at home.
When I look to what 2012 holds for SANZAR I actually fear for the future of rugby in the region. If you think the post-2007 migration was big, you will be shocked at the amount of first choice international players who will be leaving. How will this affect the already dwindling TV audiences and match attendances? probably not positively.
I would like to end this article on a positive note but frankly, I can’t think of much to say other than “Someone save Southern Hemisphere Rugby!”.Tweet