Time for Super Rugby to ditch South Africa?
April 16, 2014
Australian sides pose at the start of the season ... will a time come when they just play more locally? © SANZAR
Former All Black Andrew Mehrtens has said Australia and New Zealand should withdraw from Super Rugby and restrict future tournaments between themselves.
With proposals to expand the competition to include another South African franchise as well as teams from Argentina, Mehrtens wrote in his stuff.co.nz column that more localised events were the way forward.
"I can't help thinking we might have lost a little interest in playing South African teams, and that ultimately the future of this competition might be more localised round time zones," he said. "The provincial championship still has a pretty strong following, and if you're looking at what Australia and New Zealand needs, maybe it's that parochialism, that tribalism which is very important."
Given Australian rugby is in a deep financial hole, Mehrtens' comments will not be unwelcome reading to many involved in the game there. "The logistics of involving South Africa are problematic - the travel and time difference - and maybe it would be better for all concerned just to play within our time zone."
With the South African government again pushing the controversial move towards a forced reintroduction of racial quotas in sport, events could force a change anyway. Under IRB regulations, such a system would be classified as racial discrimination and could lead to South Africa being suspended from competition.
Mehrtens said the future was elsewhere. "[We could] include teams from the Pacific Islands and Japan. Maybe there could still be post-season involvement with South Africa, but their natural alignment is more with the UK and Europe, in the same time zone. You might have 20 teams in our time-zone - eight or so from New Zealand, maybe six in Australia and the rest from the islands and Japan."
He said that New Zealand's geographical isolation meant it needed mutually beneficial and closer links with Australia. "It's a biggish economy and there's a lot of money to be tapped into if it's done well.
"Australia has a lot of potential for growth, especially with broadcasting revenue, and New Zealand needs to recognise this. At the moment rugby is the poor cousin of the winter codes but that could easily change."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd