Super Rugby

Six-team SA derby feast makes sense

There is an art to improvisation ... and SA Rugby have probably got it right if, as speculated, the game will relaunch on our shores with an all-domestic derby extravaganza involving six franchises.

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The intended "rugby rescue" plan from here, it seems, is to pitch into battle from early June the four local Super Rugby sides (Sharks, Stormers, Bulls and Lions) with the addition to the tournament of PRO14 participants the Cheetahs and Kings.

It would also be final confirmation of an admittance of defeat, if you like, when it comes to completing Super Rugby 2020, given the monumental snag of varying degrees of national coronavirus lockdown in the countries involved and the logistical nightmare that would pose for the timing of any resumption.

Desperate for live content to satisfy both broadcasters and sponsors, with multimillions of rands of otherwise frittered-away revenue at stake, the umbrella body has had to prepare for both best-case (this one, optimistically kicking off around June 5) and worst-case scenarios in terms of a time frame for restored first-class activity.

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If this competition goes ahead, it is reportedly earmarked for a two-month period - suggesting that a double round of fixtures might be feasible, I suspect, to roughly the end of July - which would also push back the intended Springbok home Test mini-series against Scotland to later in the year, after an ideally on-schedule Rugby Championship (August and September).

My own gut feeling is that early June will remain a little early to anticipate any live rugby in South Africa, even in the highly likely event that the tournament is played entirely behind closed doors.

But if it IS possible for a green light from later in that month or the outset of July, then it could pretty seamlessly switch to a single round of fixtures if necessary (probably with a final to close it out?).

A single host venue is a likely scenario, giving scope to the possibility that it is staged well away from the more densely-packed metropolises of, for example, Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town.

In discussing the possible backdrop with fellow rugby devotees on Twitter over the weekend, my suggestion of Potchefstroom, with its (very likely) dry winter climate and trumpeted university/sports institute infrastructure, appeared to go down quite well.

Still, that's putting cart before horse: first we need clarity on when the national lockdown is going to be eased sufficiently to allow for sport to resume, and even then with it riddled in substantial peril about prospects for virus infection just among participants.

But at very least, rugby minds are active, and that's good for the soul …

*Rob Houwing is Sport24's chief writer. Follow him on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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