The only future for a healthier and stronger South African Super Rugby presence is to reduce the number of participating teams from four to three.
This would free up one of the top four teams to play in the PRO14 and also ensure that Super Rugby can revert to a single round league structure.
The tournament, be it 18 or 15 teams, is a mess with the existing conference structure.
All Blacks captain Kieran Read earlier in the week was the latest player to voice his displeasure at the current Super Rugby format, saying the conference system had to go. Read, like everyone expect SANZAAR’s leadership, promotes a competition in which each team plays the other once and the top four go into playoff, with the top two rewarded with home ground advantage.
The conference system has never worked because it has invariably rewarded a team a home playoff when ordinarily the team is ranked outside the top four based on the season's results.
Australia’s conference, for the past five years, has been a shambles and New Zealand’s five franchises have fought a war of attrition, with the New Zealand conference tougher to win than Super Rugby’s title.
South Africa has relied largely on the Lions for credibility over the last three years. Previously, they relied on the Bulls while the Stormers and Sharks have occasionally delivered a competitive season or three.
Super Rugby, spread across four, five and six South African franchise participants, has never delivered on the vision. Then again, having a strategic plan often doesn’t translate into an operational success.
Super Rugby is important to South African rugby, but it isn’t the make or break of South African rugby. South Africa, geographically, has the biggest advantage over New Zealand and Australia when it comes to being able to play in competitions in the northern and southern hemisphere.
South African rugby players, in terms of quality of opposition, will always gain something from playing the best of New Zealand. It’s imperative to recognise this. Equally, South African rugby will be the beneficiary for introducing a stronger and more competitive franchise to an expanded PRO14.
It will allow the national coach and the national rugby leadership a foot in both hemispheres, with realism of success in the different competitions.
Currently, South African teams make up numbers in both competitions.
The well-being and future of the South African game has to be at heart of all decision-making post 2020. It’s a lie that the Super 15 is in any way better than the flop of Super 18. The complex nature of the structure has detracted from the fairness of the playing schedule, and it has compromised the integrity of the competition.
The future has to be a single round tournament.
The future also can’t accommodate four South African franchises.
It’s time for the four South African franchises to put their big boy pants on, disregard historical provincial and regional agendas and petty politics and to positively influence the changing face of the South African professional rugby.
The leadership in these four regions must sit with the SA Rugby executive and operational chief and find common ground on what commercially is the most rewarding for South African rugby as a collective.
The priority has to be that all decisions work in favour of South African rugby, with the Springboks the ultimate beneficiary of the two-hemisphere playing split.
The decision of which one of the four SA teams transfers from Super Rugby to an expanded PRO14 would hopefully be done in discussion with all the role players, with realism ruling over romanticism.
If there can’t be common ground, then decisive leadership should dictate that historical competition results rank the teams one to four and number four heads north.
It’s all a win-win situation for South African rugby if there is an acknowledgement of the awful state of Super Rugby.
It will also allow the reinvention of the Currie Cup, which unfortunately has for some time been a second-tier feeder competition to the regional ambitions associated with Super Rugby.
South African rugby’s strength is in the reduction of numbers. Less is more because less will also allow for more in the north.
Super Rugby has to go back to the future to get it right and South African rugby bosses must lead this time travel.
Three is the magical number, in the south and in the north.
Mark Keohane is a Cape-Town based award-winning rugby specialist and former Springbok Communications Manager. Follow him on Twitter
encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The
views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do
not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.
Previous Mark Keohane columns on Sport24:
Mbonambi the biggest winner after England series
Boks will win Rugby Championship
Rassie shows Boks can transform - and win
Judge Boks after England series!
Boks can pick 2 teams of equal strength
Why Kolisi is the best option to lead Boks
Louw’s Bok credentials soar after Newlands derby
Newlands derby is D-Day for Springbok contenders
Kolisi needs to up his game
'X-factor' RG Snyman deserves Bok call
There is enough quality for Boks to excel in 2018
Is SANZAAR waiting for the death of a player?
Bok series will be the end of Eddie Jones
Don't blame transformation for SA rugby woes
Stormers don't have halfbacks to challenge in Super Rugby
Bulls will be a different animal under Mitchell
Back Sharks to be SA's top team
Rassie's Boks will beat England's Eddie
Shocking results, not race behind Coetzee's axing
No tournament with Sunwolves can be 'best v best'!
How Rassie plans to re-align SA Rugby
Scrap the 30-Test ruling and make Cheslin Kolbe a Bok!
Blitzboks, not All Blacks, the talk of Cape Town
Kids don't win RWCs, get back Duane, Frans!
Why Rassie is the man to take Boks forward
Paris glory won't erase Albany and Dublin gore
I'd happily take a 1-point win!
To vote against SA's bid would be an insult
Bosch will win Currie Cup final for Sharks
No current Bok would make 2007 team!
Dublin is D-Day for Boks
All Blacks' lack of desire gives Boks a sniff
Boks will beat Wallabies, but...
Bok changes won't spell panic
Boks will run All Blacks close
Win or lose in Perth, Boks have made progress!
Etzebeth is the right choice for Bok captain!
Kriel sets example others should follow
Combrinck to lead Lions to Super Rugby title
Jantjies the man to lead Lions to glory
Stormers WILL reach Super Rugby semis!
Stormers need to back youngster Willemse
Serfontein, Mostert the Boks standouts
Boks must extend Brendan 'Mr Fixit' Venter's role
Coetzee's Lions-laden Bok side can't lose!
Expect a different looking Bok starting XV!
Fear not, Boks will whitewash France 3-0!
Hey Allister, load the Boks with Lions!
The RWC 2019 gods have smiled on the Boks!
Unleash Curwin Bosch on the French!
YES, an overseas-based SA team would beat the Boks, but...
The next Springbok skipper has to be...
Super Rugby cull good for SA rugby
Clap, clap ... Venter's appointment should be applauded
South African rugby NEEDS to host RWC 2023
Why SA can't have 6 Super Rugby teams
Super 12 glory is now Super 18 gory
No winner is SARU's half-cocked overseas policy
Keeping Coetzee sadly no April Fools' joke
Mediocrity must fall!
Overseas based SA players are no traitors!
Sick Boks need more than a new doctor
Joost earned more than a minute's silence