New SANZAR boss values SA
Sydney - Newly-appointed SANZAR head Greg Peters will seek to placate disaffected South African rugby officials as one of his first tasks when he takes charge of the fractious southern hemisphere governing body.
Perennially tetchy relations between the South African Rugby Union (SARU) and their Australian and New Zealand counterparts have hit rocky ground in recent weeks after Springboks coach Peter de Villiers was hauled before a tribunal for suggesting referees had favoured New Zealand in the teams' opening Tri-Nations matches.
South African media have reported SARU is mulling quitting SANZAR, which runs the Super rugby competition and the annual Tri-Nations tournament, at the end of the current five-year broadcasting deal.
SARU has played down the reports as the usual boardroom headbutting between partners.
"Obviously South Africa is a huge part of the SANZAR alliance both in terms of the money generated out of broadcasting, the teams that contribute to Super rugby and the Tri-Nations competition, so it's hard to envisage a future without South Africa involved in some way shape or form," New Zealander Peters said in a conference call on Tuesday.
"One of my first tasks is to get to grips with some of the issues that they're facing and trying to understand that a whole lot better and - with an independent hat on - look at the whole situation so that we can take this thing forward with the three countries, and soon to be four countries in 2012."
Current CEO of Super side Wellington Hurricanes, Peters will start the Sydney-based role as SANZAR's first permanent head in November. The position was previously shared between the partners on a rotational basis.
He will oversee the Super rugby competition's move to a 15-team conference-based system next year with the addition of the Melbourne Rebels, and the Tri-Nations' expansion to a four-team competition in 2012 with Argentina set to join.
The selection of the Rebels as the 15th Super side last year upset South African officials who had plumped for the Eastern Cape-based Southern Kings, who enjoy strong political backing from the ANC government.
De Villiers' hearing, ordered by New Zealand Rugby Union CEO Steve Tew, the last rotational head of SANZAR, further aggravated SARU, which has previously threatened to ditch the southern hemisphere in favour of joining the northern hemisphere's Six Nations.
Peters said the establishment of a truly independent body would help defuse SARU's grievances and noted that the country's players' union had backed southern hemisphere rugby in a statement last week.
"(All three partners) are uniquely different," he said. "Everyone's got a different perspective on it. Rugby being what it is, is a very competitive game and (there are) some pretty strong personalities involved. And that's part of the strength of what we all love about our sport."