Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town – Latest official and media noises from the
terrain of South African rugby’s SANZAR partners suggest any hopes of an
expansion of Super Rugby to 16 teams to accommodate the problematic Southern
Kings are increasingly forlorn.
The message to SA Rugby seems clear from Australia, in
particular, and probably also New Zealand: if you want to fit in the Kings next
year, it will still have to be as part of a five-team conference.
SANZAR’s Sydney-based but NZ-hailing chief executive Greg
Peters is quoted on the website www.Keo.co.za
on Tuesday as saying: “How the Kings are accommodated is a domestic issue for
“While we are always open to dialogue ... it is incumbent on them (SARU) to make the
necessary adjustments to facilitate the Kings’ inclusion.”
His words come shortly after weekend media reports in South
Africa that the existing SA franchises in Super Rugby would consider boycotting
the event if one of them gets the chop to make room for the Eastern Cape-based
Meanwhile Australian press sentiment seems unfavourably
disposed also toward the idea of an expansion of the tournament from 2013 to a
Super 16, with the big structural changes to the three-conference, 15-team
format that would require.
Columnist Greg Growden, in the influential Sydney Morning Herald, on Tuesday penned
a piece under a headline “Sulking South Africans stand no chance of adding to
Perhaps a little unfairly -- considering that one of the
current five SA franchises clearly has much to lose if the Kings do end up
elbowing them out of the lucrative mix – he chose to add it to a perceived
catalogue of South African “whinges” about Super Rugby.
“It’s February, the Super Rugby season is about to start and
– shock, horror – the South African provinces are having an almighty whinge.
“So what’s new? One year, they are complaining that the
tournament scheduling is unfair because, they argue, it favours the Australian
and New Zealand teams.
“The next, they are moaning about wanting to head to Europe
because they play in the same time zone.
“Now they are complaining that they don’t have enough teams
in the tournament – and that if the tournament isn’t expanded from a Super 15
to Super 16, they will boycott the event.
“Forget about it. It’s not going to happen. It is just the
latest in a long line of the type of political bluster of which SA rugby
officials are the masters.”
Growden said SARU would keep lobbying their Australian and
New Zealand partners to get an extra team, but they have no hope of success.
“The Super 15 will remain the Super 15 until at least 2016
(when the latest television rights deal ends). One SA province will have to go
to allow the Kings to come in. End of story.”
If some of Growden’s comments seem a tad crude and
unscientific about South Africa’s dilemma, they do at least appear to hint at
strong Antipodean sentiment not to meddle with the status quo for the time
The Kings’ “ball” could be very much in a South African