Money talks in Super Rugby

Herman Mostert (File)
Herman Mostert (File)
Cape Town - Money gives you greater bargaining power and that’s why South Africa is getting its Super Rugby wish granted by SANZAR.

Greg Peters, the Southern Hemisphere governing body’s CEO, last week all-but confirmed that the competition will be expanded to include SIX teams from South Africa and a new team from Argentina.

This will happen from the 2016 season when a new broadcast deal kicks into effect.

It means the Kings - and the Lions for that matter - will be assured of playing top-flight rugby year in, year out - something the South African Rugby Union (SARU) has lobbied for a long while now.

The news caused somewhat of an uproar in New Zealand, with coaches and former players expressing dissatisfaction at the intended changes.

Former All Black captain, Taine Randell, earlier this week claimed South Africa lacks the depth to warrant a sixth team in Super Rugby.

Randell said South Africa has no right to another team and that the country’s talent depth has already proved to be too shallow with five teams.

Dave Rennie, coach of the two-time defending champion Chiefs, also expressed his concerns at an expanded competition.

Rennie said the New Zealand coaches wanted a legitimate competition where everyone plays everyone and also expressed concerns of player welfare due to the amount of games.

While reading some of these comments, I can’t help but agree with some of what was said, especially Randell’s.

Based purely on form over the years, there’s only one country which deserves more teams and that’s New Zealand.

Since the inception of Super Rugby in 1996, a team from New Zealand has won the event no fewer than 12 times out of 18.

South Africa and Australia boast just three wins apiece, with the Bulls being the only team from these shores to have lifted the trophy.

South Africa has also taken the wooden spoon 13 out of 18 years, and when you compare New Zealand’s success on the global scene (think Junior World Championships, Sevens World Series and Tri-Nations…) there’s no doubt they have the most depth.

It is also somewhat puzzling that SANZAR has granted Australia - no doubt the country with the least depth of the three - two additional teams over the years, with the Force joining in 2006 and the Rebels in 2011.

These two teams have more often than not ranked among the competition’s whipping boys - in the last three seasons both finished at least 12th or lower and the highest one has finished was in 2007 when the Force made it all the way up the ladder to No 7.

The fact that the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) allows them - and not the other three (Brumbies, Reds and Waratahs) - to contract more players from overseas is further prove of the lack of depth in their game.

The Force, for example, have no fewer than eight South African players on their books, which brings up the question why these franchises were included in the first place?

It is quite clear to me that if there’s one country in the competition deserving another team, then it’s the land of the long white cloud.


But unfortunately for rugby purists - and New Zealand for that matter - the reality of the situation is that South Africa is set to be the next big winner and, from a political point of view, fully deserves it.

It’s a well-known fact that South Africa, via broadcaster SuperSport, generates most of the money for SANZAR in Super Rugby and appears to have used this power to bargain for a sixth team to be included.

SARU president Oregan Hoskins last year even threatened to quit should SANZAR not allow a sixth team, hinting they could join the Northern Hemisphere in their pursuit of satisfying all six local franchises.

With South Africa producing the largest amount of the revenue, SANZAR realised it could not afford to lose them to the North and simply had to bow to South Africa’s commands.

Well, that’s the way I see it.

It’s in a way similar to the way the Indian cricket board - which generates close to 80% of the revenue in the world game - always seems to get its way in that sporting code.

So sorry New Zealand, you may have more depth, but you’ll have to bow to South Africa’s commands on this one.

South Africa - via the Kings and Lions - will in all likelihood again crop up the bottom of the competition in future seasons, but at least things will run a bit more smoothly in the SARU boardroom...

Herman Mostert works at Sport24 - and fancies himself as a bit of a tennis player and rugby writer...

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.
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