Super Rugby needs changing!
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
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
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
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 …
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