3 Super Rugby franchises the way forward for SA

Mark Keohane (File)
Mark Keohane (File)

The only future for a healthier and stronger South African Super Rugby presence is to reduce the number of participating teams from four to three.

This would free up one of the top four teams to play in the PRO14 and also ensure that Super Rugby can revert to a single round league structure.

The tournament, be it 18 or 15 teams, is a mess with the existing conference structure.

All Blacks captain Kieran Read earlier in the week was the latest player to voice his displeasure at the current Super Rugby format, saying the conference system had to go. Read, like everyone expect SANZAAR’s leadership, promotes a competition in which each team plays the other once and the top four go into playoff, with the top two rewarded with home ground advantage.

The conference system has never worked because it has invariably rewarded a team a home playoff when ordinarily the team is ranked outside the top four based on the season's results.

Australia’s conference, for the past five years, has been a shambles and New Zealand’s five franchises have fought a war of attrition, with the New Zealand conference tougher to win than Super Rugby’s title.

South Africa has relied largely on the Lions for credibility over the last three years. Previously, they relied on the Bulls while the Stormers and Sharks have occasionally delivered a competitive season or three.

Super Rugby, spread across four, five and six South African franchise participants, has never delivered on the vision. Then again, having a strategic plan often doesn’t translate into an operational success.

Super Rugby is important to South African rugby, but it isn’t the make or break of South African rugby. South Africa, geographically, has the biggest advantage over New Zealand and Australia when it comes to being able to play in competitions in the northern and southern hemisphere.

South African rugby players, in terms of quality of opposition, will always gain something from playing the best of New Zealand. It’s imperative to recognise this. Equally, South African rugby will be the beneficiary for introducing a stronger and more competitive franchise to an expanded PRO14.

It will allow the national coach and the national rugby leadership a foot in both hemispheres, with realism of success in the different competitions.

Currently, South African teams make up numbers in both competitions.

The well-being and future of the South African game has to be at heart of all decision-making post 2020. It’s a lie that the Super 15 is in any way better than the flop of Super 18. The complex nature of the structure has detracted from the fairness of the playing schedule, and it has compromised the integrity of the competition.

The future has to be a single round tournament.

The future also can’t accommodate four South African franchises.

It’s time for the four South African franchises to put their big boy pants on, disregard historical provincial and regional agendas and petty politics and to positively influence the changing face of the South African professional rugby.

The leadership in these four regions must sit with the SA Rugby executive and operational chief and find common ground on what commercially is the most rewarding for South African rugby as a collective.

The priority has to be that all decisions work in favour of South African rugby, with the Springboks the ultimate beneficiary of the two-hemisphere playing split.

The decision of which one of the four SA teams transfers from Super Rugby to an expanded PRO14 would hopefully be done in discussion with all the role players, with realism ruling over romanticism.

If there can’t be common ground, then decisive leadership should dictate that historical competition results rank the teams one to four and number four heads north.

It’s all a win-win situation for South African rugby if there is an acknowledgement of the awful state of Super Rugby.

It will also allow the reinvention of the Currie Cup, which unfortunately has for some time been a second-tier feeder competition to the regional ambitions associated with Super Rugby.

South African rugby’s strength is in the reduction of numbers. Less is more because less will also allow for more in the north.

Super Rugby has to go back to the future to get it right and South African rugby bosses must lead this time travel.

Three is the magical number, in the south and in the north.

Mark Keohane is a Cape-Town based award-winning rugby specialist and former Springbok Communications Manager. Follow him on Twitter 

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.

Previous Mark Keohane columns on Sport24:

Mbonambi the biggest winner after England series

Boks will win Rugby Championship

Rassie shows Boks can transform - and win

Judge Boks after England series!

Boks can pick 2 teams of equal strength

Why Kolisi is the best option to lead Boks

Louw’s Bok credentials soar after Newlands derby

Newlands derby is D-Day for Springbok contenders

Kolisi needs to up his game

'X-factor' RG Snyman deserves Bok call

There is enough quality for Boks to excel in 2018

Is SANZAAR waiting for the death of a player?

Bok series will be the end of Eddie Jones

Don't blame transformation for SA rugby woes

Stormers don't have halfbacks to challenge in Super Rugby

Bulls will be a different animal under Mitchell

Back Sharks to be SA's top team

Rassie's Boks will beat England's Eddie

Shocking results, not race behind Coetzee's axing

No tournament with Sunwolves can be 'best v best'!

How Rassie plans to re-align SA Rugby

Scrap the 30-Test ruling and make Cheslin Kolbe a Bok!

Blitzboks, not All Blacks, the talk of Cape Town

Kids don't win RWCs, get back Duane, Frans!

Why Rassie is the man to take Boks forward

Paris glory won't erase Albany and Dublin gore

I'd happily take a 1-point win!

To vote against SA's bid would be an insult

Bosch will win Currie Cup final for Sharks

No current Bok would make 2007 team!

Dublin is D-Day for Boks

All Blacks' lack of desire gives Boks a sniff

Boks will beat Wallabies, but...

Bok changes won't spell panic

Boks will run All Blacks close

Win or lose in Perth, Boks have made progress!

Etzebeth is the right choice for Bok captain!

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Combrinck to lead Lions to Super Rugby title

Jantjies the man to lead Lions to glory

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Stormers need to back youngster Willemse

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Boks must extend Brendan 'Mr Fixit' Venter's role

Coetzee's Lions-laden Bok side can't lose!

Expect a different looking Bok starting XV!

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