S15 'snub' for SA unlikely
Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town - Prospects of New Zealand and Australia abandoning the influential South African element of the SANZAR alliance and going it alone in a reworked Super Rugby competition from 2016 appear to be receding fast.
It has been rumoured over the past few weeks that the Antipodean pair, disgruntled by SARU’s strong desire for a sixth spot for a South African team - which would quickly allow for restoration of the now-relegated Kings - might shed the SA link altogether when the tournament is revamped after the 2015 season.
But a report on English newspaper The Guardian’s website on Tuesday pours cold water on that scenario, as it quotes NZRU chief executive Steve Tew as saying any breakaway would be "unrealistic commercially" because of the huge TV broadcast revenue out of South Africa.
Tew also said NZRU high performance staff valued Super Rugby games (by NZ franchises) in South Africa as a proving ground for their future Test players.
Apart from the all-important television factor, South Africa continues to provide the best stadium attendances in the competition: 2013 gate statistics showed that the Stormers again topped the 15-team pile (average home crowd 33 545), with the brief debutant Kings in third place and the Bulls in fourth – the only Australasian side to crack the top four was the Reds in second.
Tew did confirm, ahead of planning meetings next month, that a possible alteration to Super Rugby from 2016 was installation of Argentinean and Japanese elements.
Nevertheless, the NZRU stood firm in its own desire that any new model not exceed the current three-conference template in length (beyond six months), and preferably even get a little shorter.
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