Sanzaar contest still thin on detail

Stormers player Damian Willemse (left) and Sharks player Hyron Andrews could get on to the field again if a proposed new Super Rugby format is approved. Picture: Supplied/Kim Ludbroo
Stormers player Damian Willemse (left) and Sharks player Hyron Andrews could get on to the field again if a proposed new Super Rugby format is approved. Picture: Supplied/Kim Ludbroo

There are as many questions as there are answers as southern hemisphere ruling body Sanzaar scrambles to get some kind of rugby played in its three main regions following the blanket sporting pause caused by the outbreak of the Covid-19 coronavirus.

While discussions are under way for the rules of engagement under which South Africa, New Zealand and Australia shall establish their own regional competitions in the wake of the indefinite suspension of the Super Rugby tournament, the Aussies announced their own new competition this week.

According to reports from Australia, the new competition would begin on April 3 and rope in the Western Force – relegated along with the Southern Kings from participating in Super Rugby in 2017 – in a 10-week home and away tournament involving five teams.

Of course, whether the competition goes ahead depends on whether the Australian government’s coronavirus-related restrictions allow for it to take place. South Africa and New Zealand are also working on their own competitions.

While New Zealand should be a simple case of their five Super Rugby franchises continuing to take lumps out of each other as per their excellent derbies, SA Rugby is considering a markedly different and inclusive offering.

According to Andy Colquhoun, the general manager of communications, SA Rugby hopes its competition begins late next month.

That tournament would include the Jaguares from Argentina, who are already part of Super Rugby’s SA Conference, and add the Southern Kings and the Cheetahs, two teams that have been rendered inactive by the cancellation of the Pro14 competition.

The Jaguares would be based in South Africa as the Pampas XV were when they participated in the Vodacom Cup and the Currie Cup, or as the Jaguares XV played out of Potchefstroom in North West en route to winning last year’s Currie Cup First Division title.

“We want to resume rugby at the end of next month, preferably behind closed doors,” said Colquhoun.

“But how the landscape changes between now and then is unknown. This is one of those situations where it’s a national disaster and a world pandemic, so we don’t know whether we can confirm with government that we can go ahead.”

There are questions around how the new competition would work, not to mention how that affects the contracts that govern the different competitions the teams will be pulled from.

whether the competition goes ahead depends on whether the Australian government’s coronavirus-related restrictions allow for it to take place. South Africa and New Zealand are also working on their own competitions.

“We understand what the contracts say,” said Colquhoun, “but I don’t know how that plays out against this landscape. Everyone is trying to mitigate the damage, there is the SuperSport contract, Vodacom ... think of the unions with season ticket holders.

“This is not part of planning, so now isn’t the time to be second-guessing.”

According to reports from Australia, Sanzaar has not abandoned the idea of playing the knockout stages of Super Rugby should conditions allow for that. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that the decision would have to be made by the middle of May.

Apparently, how those quarterfinalists would be determined is one of the many discussions Sanzaar is having, the understanding being that results from the first seven Super Rugby games would be taken into account.

The report said the thinking there would be to grant the current conference leaders automatic entry, and decide on the remaining five teams on the basis of the best of the rest from Super Rugby and the soon-to-be established regional competitions.

The complication would be that not everyone would have played the same team and, for South Africa, if the Cheetahs and the Kings found the form to somehow be top of the new South African competition.


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