SANZAAR might not cut teams at all!
Johannesburg - SANZAAR’s plans to cut teams from the 2018 version of Super Rugby could fall flat on its face, meaning the Southern Kings and Cheetahs may be given a reprieve.
According to the SuperSport website, that is, however, if the Australian Super Rugby sides win a court case that the Melbourne Rebels have launched in Australia against the governing body to save them from being axed from the competition.
While SA Rugby still has to announce which two sides will be cut from the 2018 version of the competition, general consensus seems to be that it is the Kings and Cheetahs that will face the chop, prompting emotion and anger in those regions.
But the financial realities in SA Rugby mean that the national body may have no option but to cut teams and has publicly said so.
The problem comes now with the Rebels, who are privately owned, this week launched a court case against the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) to stop the governing body from “buying back their license from them.”
With the Western Force also threatening legal action and the Cheetahs locally reported to have sought legal advice from a senior advocate, the 2018 cut is far from a done deal.
SANZAAR’s governing body will meet in Tokyo on Thursday in a “heads of state meeting” where the progress in the Super Rugby cuts are meant to be discussed, but Supersport.com’s information is that unless the cuts are approved in both Australia and South Africa, SANZAAR will be forced to continue with the 18-team competition until 2021.
South Africa has already approved the cuts in SA Rugby meetings and a franchise committee is now meeting to decide by means of a weighting system which two sides will fall away, but the war in Australian rugby is far greater, with both the Rebels and Force resisting any change in the current system.
The ARU specifically named both sides as the two in danger, while absolving the Brumbies from a cut when it held a press conference last month but both sides have rallied to save their franchises, with the Force obtaining major backing from the Western Australian government in recent times.
Both teams feel they have “an outright case to stay in the competition”, according to The Australian newspaper, with the Force reportedly asking for an injunction as well.
With the two Australian states getting involved - and the Victoria government now reportedly offering the same level of financial support for the Rebels as the Western Australian government, the ARU sits with a problem in trying to sort the matter out.
But if they do lose the court case, or are unable to come to solve the impasse, all bets are off and SANZAAR will keep the same tournament structure for the foreseeable future, even though in their own words it has proved wildly unpopular.