Super Rugby needs changing!

Sport24 columnist Tank Lanning (File)
Sport24 columnist Tank Lanning (File)
There will be more people at the promotion-relegation match between the Lions and Kings at Ellis Park this Saturday (17:00) than there were at the Super Rugby quarter-final between the Bulls and Brumbies at Loftus last weekend.

There were also many more people at Newlands to watch what was for the Cape fans a meaningless Super Rugby league game for their team against the Bulls than there were at the quarter-final.

According to Repucom, of the 20 most watched Super Rugby games on DStv this year, 14 were local derbies, including the Top 3. Every game involved a South African side, while only six were games against either New Zealand or Australia opposition. Amazingly, only two of those six games were against Kiwi sides!  

Last year, 18 of the 20 most viewed games were hosted in SA, 19 included an SA side, and 13 were SA derbies. New Zealand sides were involved in six of those games, while Australian sides played in only three of the Top 20 most viewed games.

In 2011, the cumulative average audience of live broadcasts on DStv reaching a massive 36 831 694 viewers, which represented 67% of the total SANZAR audience. The Kiwis (via Sky Sports) brought in 22% of the audience, while the Aussies (via Fox Sports) managed a meager 11%.

The current TV rights deal, which runs from 2011 to 2015, is believed to be worth a total of $400 million. Which is then split three ways... meaning that South Africa (via SuperSport) will undoubtedly be paying the most for the rights (based on delivering 67% of the TV audience), yet taking home only a third of that, given the SANZAR agreement.

Based on the above, it’s no wonder that one of alleged proposals being discussed among the SANZAR nations, this one from SARU, with input from Argentina, involves South Africa splitting from the current Super Rugby tournament to form its own competition with at least six teams and, potentially, an Argentinian side. The Australian and New Zealand provinces would then form a second grouping and potentially welcome an Asian side to their competition in future seasons.

Super Rugby is unfair in that not all sides play each other even though it based on a league, unfair in that every region is guaranteed a quarter-finalist no matter the performance, includes too many teams, is badly structured, is killing the players, and takes too long to complete...

And is thus in desperate need of a complete overhaul, but is the split from Australia and New Zealand the right way to go?

Seemingly bullied into the current format, even while holding plenty aces in their hand, SARU have now decided to stand up for themselves. Not because of the aces up their sleeve, though, but because they want to accommodate six franchises.

This while the fifth franchise has been the bottom feeder on the log in four out of the last five seasons!

All parties are believed to be in favour of working out a solution that includes South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Argentina, but SARU's domestic political environment is proving the sticking point.

The future structure of any tournament, which might or might not include the likes of Europe and their Heineken Cup (which, despite its obvious appeal, is also poorly structured and less comparable to Super Rugby than one might think), Argentina and Asia, is an exciting discussion, and one that I will fuel in a future column.

But it is deeply troubling to see SARU fighting for their “due rights” when the numbers do not stack up (it is impossible to argue for a sixth franchise on merit), yet were seemingly happy to sit back and be bullied when all the economic numbers suggested they should be fighting for a bigger or better slice of the SANZAR pie.

The Kings / Lions debacle, and it can only be described as such, is quite clearly politically motivated, and is a blight on the South African rugby landscape. Yet SARU are seemingly happy to roll away from Super Rugby unless SANZAR change their tournament structure so as to help SARU clean up their mess.

Super Rugby needs a change, but make the decisions based on merit and fact, not on accommodating one of the parties' pathetic internal politicking!

Tank is a former Western Province tighthead prop who now heads up Tankman Media, and sprouts forth on all things rugby on the Front Row Grunt

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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