Don’t quit SANZAR - Kirwan

2010-08-16 22:32

Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

Cape Town – South African rugby would be unwise to consider fracturing the SANZAR alliance and seeking new horizons north of the equator.

Nor would there be any guarantee of South African acceptance anyway into the tradition-steeped Six Nations or, for instance, the English Premiership club competition.

So says legendary All Blacks wing and Japanese national team coach John Kirwan, visiting this country as a New Zealand 2011 Government Ambassador to stimulate local interest in the looming World Cup there.

In an exclusive interview with Sport24, the 63-Test international from 1984 to 1994 said a combined switch in strategic direction by the existing partners in the trio (South Africa, New Zealand and Australia) would be a more beneficial approach for all parties.

He was responding to weekend reports that the South African Rugby Union (SARU) was contemplating quitting SANZAR after 2015 partly because of a “strained relationship” with the other partners, which would jeopardise both Super rugby and the soon-to-be-remodelled Four Nations also featuring Argentina.

“This is my personal belief and not one of the NZRFU, but I think we need to change our direction (as SANZAR).

“I don’t think Super 15 is our future. I believe you guys should play Currie Cup, we could play NPC and invite the Australians into our competition, and then we should break every six weeks or so to play something like a Heineken Cup.

“In that respect, we should introduce the Japanese, because Asia is where the money is, and start building something on that basis.

“If you (South Africa) aim toward the UK, you only go there because there’s more money and you can get a slightly bigger pot of gold.

“But if we stay together as SANZAR, why don’t we expand purposefully into Asia? You could create a scenario where you, for instance, actually strengthen your Currie Cup. Instead of developing five (Super rugby) teams you can develop up to 10 teams.

“So you’re keeping your base healthy, and then we’re breaking up to play a Heineken Cup. So every few weeks down here in the Cape, for instance, you might have a pool with Canterbury coming to play Western Province, as well as a Japanese team and a Fijian team. And then you go into playoffs.

“That way you immediately start broadening how we can start making some money. In SANZAR we’re limited: we’ve got four million people in New Zealand and you’re not going to get any rights out of us; we’ve got the All Blacks.

“There are 18 million in Australia and 48 million here, but probably only 15 you can financially rely on.”
Kirwan said a big plus in Asia was that some 20 world-famous international companies sponsor Japanese rugby, for no return.

“They all spend between five and 10 million dollars a year and the stadiums aren’t full, but because it’s good for the community. Toyota’s advertising budget is one billion dollars a year.

“So I don’t know why you (South Africa) want to go to a saturated market, which is the UK. What are you going to do?

“I don’t think they’d let you in anyway. Why would they open up the Six Nations or the Premiership to the African sides that could end up winning it?”

*A fuller version of Sport24’s interview with Kirwan to follow...


  • rugbyfan - 2010-08-16 23:08

    Why would we want to disadvantage ourselves further by getting involved in Asia? Travel and time difference is already a huge factor, and moving into that part of the world will make it even worse. I don't think we should quit SANZAR, but I think we really need to lay down the law and make things fairer towards our teams.

  • Bokdude - 2010-08-16 23:53

    “I don’t think they’d let you in anyway. Why would they open up the Six Nations or the Premiership to the African sides that could end up winning it?” Because we might help to raise the standard, which is good for NH rugby!

  • Richard - 2010-08-17 01:08

    This is one of the more sensible solutions I've heard for all this SANZAR nonsense.

  • Sparky - 2010-08-17 01:58

    Of course AU/NZ will say things like this - they cannot afford to lose SA, for a big chunk of the cash for SANZAR comes out of SA. I have lost interest in the game 7 years ago, when it became clear that there were three sets of rules, one per team, and SA at a disadvantage before the game begins. Too much rugby also waters down the gravity of the really important games. Find other unions that want to play the game without media empire motives, and you may actually re-entice the population to attend games again. Oh, I forgot - SARU DOES NOT GIVE A SH1T!

  • bloubal - 2010-08-17 02:46

    Kirwin, with all due respect, stick with your Japanese side and do what you are appointed for. Do not stick your nose in someone else's issues. I sense (a NZ) panick here which looks like $$$$$$$. SARU, make up your own mind. If this is what you want to do then do it. Kirwin Quote:"we should break every six weeks or so to play something like a Heineken Cup" but when Rassie Erasmus came up with this Super Rugby League idea SANZAR voted against it that includes NZ but they thinking of a "something like a Heinenkin Cup?" SA Rugby, go where it suites you and your players BEST. you want ed to in 2006 and since then nothing changed. As a matter of fact it got worse. Go Bokke Go. N/H will welcome you with open armas. Kirwin himself admitted there is more money. Money money money, must be funny....

  • cp - 2010-08-17 02:56

    Sorry John, your commentary is nothing more than self-preservation for New Zealand. What terrible ill-considered arguments. Use Asia for the money, they don't even fill the stadiums??? "I don’t think they’d let you in anyway"?? Nobody has asked yet - no-one knows until you ask! Are you suggesting even more crazy travel going from the tip of Africa to Asia?? NZ and Aus are comparatively just a short hop north to Asian rugby markets. This is hardly helpful to SA! If this appears so lucrative up there - well off you go then and let SA head to Europe in some form.

  • Jan - 2010-08-17 03:52

    Go to hell you kiwis and aussies. We don't need you. We are sick and tired of biased refs and the whole structure of who's appointing refs for certain matches.

  • Corne Krige - 2010-08-17 04:27

    John Kirwan is a legend!

  • NZAR - 2010-08-17 04:41

    Yes, RSA should leave. For RSA to stay part only one condition must be accepted and that is - Northern Hemisphere refs for Sounthern Hemisphere games. Aus and NZ refs do not like RSA and will blow for any infringement while AUS/NZ players get away with murder. When RSA ref awards a penalty against Aus/NZ players, Aus/NZ will call him a clown/idiot even if the video replay shows the infringement. Aus/NZ players think that they are above the law and it is always RSA players that get the short end of the stick. AUS/NZ should come down to earth and accept the fact that the only way that they can win is by using there own refs. RSA should start it's own league with Africa, South America and Asia. Tell AUS/NZ to take a flying leap.

  • eudon - 2010-08-17 05:21

    I agree with Kirwan. Expand is the way forward and Asia is a very good start if not the right only right one at the moment.

  • BLOUBUL - 2010-08-17 05:46

    im eager to see SANZAR go and shoot themselves in the foot. All just to protect the Div over this imaginary war declaration as Hoskins put it. time for hoskins to go.

  • Kevin - 2010-08-17 06:08

    Boycott New Zealand RWC. Paddy and his cronies are allowing the all blacks to blatantly cheat and Mccaw runs about tripping, pulling jersyes and kicking players like Januarie and then Danies fiasco

  • Walt - 2010-08-17 06:11

    Yeh, it's all about strengthening New Zealand and Asian rugby Mr Kirwin. As it is, in it's present format, both Super 14 and Tri Nations favour your side of the world. You're crazy!

  • Stephen - 2010-08-17 06:28

    John Kirwan's comments and ideas make a lot of sense. However for myself I am a little tired of the seeing the Sanzar teams every season. Personally for me I would like to go back to the traditional touring teams that come for a period of time and play a test series of 3 or 5 tests and also play our Provincial teams.

  • BigJohn - 2010-08-17 06:30

    Yes, include Asia/Japan with Australia and New Zealand and then South Africa can pay even more away matches in prejudicial time zones. You're smolking something cheap Kirwan

  • GREGSTER - 2010-08-17 06:55

    Fair chirp. I just hate being bossed around by any person or country. em i say. These kiwis and aussies can play together in the sandpit. We can go and grow the game with the east. As for the 6nations. Oh my HAT!! Can you IMAGINE? Stuck up, Hoity-toity,("we invented the game you know"), etc etc. We will NEVER truly feel accepted there. Always like intruders. The future of this planet lies in the EAST. Rugby there will do wonders for political relations as well as the bonus of female JAPANESE coming to support their sides in SA.. THATS REASON ENOUGH FOR ME. My mate is basing himself in sydney for the whole 2011 w-cup cos the girls in nz are just SO BLAND. SKREW SANZAR I SAY!!

  • JOHAN JOUBERT - 2010-08-17 06:57


  • kosie - 2010-08-17 07:03

    stop beinig corrupt and bais, nzrfu should not control sanzar,

  • 06 - 2010-08-17 07:04

    If SARU leaves SANZAR then they should go back to roots (Currie cup, vodacom cup, and with the varsity cup should be a open club rugby cup) and we invite Argentina and Asian teams.

  • Bamba-Zonkie - 2010-08-17 07:09

    Kirwan makes plenty of sense as a business, but you cannot talk business to the clowns that are running SARU as they are politcians. As a professional I am based in Asia where the money is, recently we tried to include South Africa in a massive steel order, we eventually icluded an SA company with factories in Asia in order to be competitive. The South African labour is the most unproductive and expensive in the world and that attitude permeates on to the sports field, add to that corruption and politics and any businessman will run a mile. South African is going the same way as Zimbabwe, whether you care to admit it or not. Until they hit rock bottom like Mugabe has and all the brains trust have left the country, they will continue driving Porche's and blaming everyone else like Bob and the bunch of monkeys at SARU

  • tim - 2010-08-17 07:24

    agree, but i am pretty happy with the current format of competition super 14 and tri nations the quality and intensity of the rugby is amazing however I welcome the argentinians in. Also we should make a plan like you said to include the asians to make rugby more popular as a global sport. But why make drastic changes like SANZAR sugested just because one idiot made a stupid comment

  • Peter - 2010-08-17 07:25

    Kirwan makes some good points from a business point of view. However, what concerns me is who will want to watch the Sharks, Stormers or Bulls playing against Nagasaki for a 88-0 result? They will have to think long and hard about their strategy in order to get a product that will appeal to the fans - both here, NZ, Oz and Asia.

  • Spike - 2010-08-17 07:28

    Kirwin forgets how the political dynamic rules in SA. Sometimes logic takes second place to greed & ignorance.

  • durbanite - 2010-08-17 07:30

    I don't think Kirwan understands how angry we are about the way the SA team is being manipulated by the aus/nz, the blatant bias and constant altering of the rules and application to suit them is turning people away, I think something different is needed. We need to get back to the tests against the AB as once offs and not every year 3/4 times. Unless there are some serious changes to the way the relationship is handled on a more fair basis I say lets look elsewhere

  • Desperate Comments - 2010-08-17 07:37

    Whilst it is great playing the AB's, the tail is wagging the dog. SA does most of the financial contribution and yet is not respected by its partners. The article above indicates the ABs want their cake and eat it. The rules have been changed to marginalise the Boks, and quite frankly I am not sure I want to see a basketball syndrome in Rugby... You have possession until you score, then its the next teams turn.... pretty predictable... a game is won on coughed up turnovers. Whether SA is naive or just not strong enough to bring balance to the rule changes, beats me.

  • Bren - 2010-08-17 07:39

    Kirwan maybe the media has put your statements out of context but it sounds like you are telling us what to do if you have ever understood SA then know this don't tell us what to do make a suggestion or offer a solution to the existing problem but to tell us we are making a mistake will just get our back up and we will leave just to piss you off.

  • Ziwi - 2010-08-17 07:45

    super 15 will be really average, not looking forward to it at all! there are already 4-6 teams that dont really deserve to be "super teams" and have never, and will never win the compitition...lions, highlanders, force im talking to you, i only every watch a game that has the sharks, or 2 strong teams facing eachother, Cheetahs vs Chiefs? pffff haha. Kirwins idea sounds much better. Argentina...gona get owned in 4 nations.

  • Andrew - 2010-08-17 07:53

    It seems South Africa can't stand up to the big boys anymore, they have to go an play the weaker northern hemisphere rugby so that they don't embarrass themselves. PdV is turning then into little girls.....

  • ands - 2010-08-17 07:57

    Mmmm...Asia. Why because they are on a similar time zone. As much as Kirwan makes sense about SA and European competition, linking with Asia would give us exactly what competition? They have a problem with international viewership for a number of reasons the main one being that there is an 8 hour time difference with SA and 10 hours with UK. Who drinks beer at 7 in the morning?

  • CHEATS - 2010-08-17 08:03


  • Lookinthemirror - 2010-08-17 08:03

    I think he's right, only in the fact SARU will have no where to go. SARU definitely haven't done themselves any favors in world rugby, and all the fans going on about the ref's and NZ and AUS cheating are so so wrong. SA is not hard done by at all, also you have never actually been the best rugby nation in the world. I think to stay SECOND best, yes I said SECOND best you need AUS and NZ more than they need you.

  • THE MAN ALMIGHTY - 2010-08-17 08:28

    SARU had better leave those racist NZ and OZ alone we africans want nothing to do with them, we dont want them here in africa...SARU had better start a african tournament now which includes our brother is time we start developing our own people now and forget about the ex appartheid beneficieries AS They are the past and have no place in the new SA

  • Theo - 2010-08-17 08:30

    Get out of the SANZAR "alliance" it is for holier than thou Australians and New Zealanders and has destroyed our Currie Cup. We should play in South America, if anywhere. The Tri-Nations is stale. We now have the Stadiums to build 8 powerful franchises and a strong Currie Cup. The reasons the Boks tour the UK every year is that we a a "money spinner".

  • Swazi Green & Gold - 2010-08-17 08:31

    Agree whole heartedly with the statement that the Super 15 isn't the future and that our primary focus should be to produce a better, more widely contended Currie cup. A Heinekin cup style Super rugby comp is probably a better program. The guys are playing a lot of Rugby. And whilst Australia doesn't have a domestic comp so their players are never as over worked as ours. NZ has their All Black centric managment style whereby all players, etc are contracted to the NZRFU so they can demand players like Mils are given an appropriate rest during the year. SA is too provincially minded, the Nienaber incident for example, whilst I agree with WP about Ninaber being contracted to them and not wanting trade 'secrets' shared. Surely the point of all lower levels of rugby from school, club, Vodacom cup, Currie cup and Super rugby is to produce a Springbok side that will (and should) dominate world rugby! Long Live the Currie Cup!

  • nigel - 2010-08-17 08:32

    Kirwan, whats the point of playing in the SANZAR alliance, if SA is not treated fairly. Besides, Aus may have 16 million people, but 70% of them support Aussie Rules, not rugby league, leaving only about 4 to 5 mil in Aus supporting rugby league, about the same as in NZ (assuming of course that the entire NZ population are supporters), while SA has, as you put it, about 15 million potential Rugby League supporters, who brings the most to the (financial) table, not NZ or Aus, its SA. Oh & how many tickets do you think the Japs will buy when you keep thashing them everytime you play them, no Kirwan, you are a sports man, not a business man. Us Saffas are not as stupid as you (& your media) suggest.

  • Piet Skiet - 2010-08-17 08:32

    Spot on JK. I wouldn't want to watch the snail pace games (NH teams) in any case. We've become spoiled with the speed & skill of the Super Rugby comp. This might actually also make the play off games in the Currie Cup interesting again. I'm just not too keen to watch a third string SA or NZ team wallop a Japanese team...

  • paul - 2010-08-17 08:33

    it is time that rsa quit ,cause we get nothing out of it.ausies and kiwi's r scared cause south africa is the financial strenth in competition

  • 19th Hole - 2010-08-17 08:34

    Wise words indeed....wonder if anybody is listening?

  • Speedy - 2010-08-17 08:40

    Agreed! By doing something like this, the Aisian teams will gain experience and make the RWC not the farce that it is at the moment. In the pool stages, there is no way that the minnows are going to cause any upsets. They just don't play enough world-class rugby like the big teams do. When have we ever seen a touring Japanese, Slovakian or Russian team? Yet they all have a dab at the RWC and lose out badly - remember the 107 - something drubbing NZ handed Japan? You can only improve if you play a stronger opponent on a regular basis.

  • Zane - 2010-08-17 08:44

    So Mr Kirwin... trying to Boost Asia.... Please dont come with crap that we should not quit. How about SANZAR creating an atmosphere where we dont want to quit... Have you watched the refs lately??? even Richi has admitted that he gets away with murder... that to me is a clear indication that he is so arrogant about it that he will publically anounce it, and still nothing... he admitted the ref cheats but because he was on the positive side, he is not brought to a disciplinary committee.. Pdiv says the same but because the Boks were on the losing side, he gets cited..... SANZAR have spoiled the rugby we are watching, and I will not watch anymore

  • Fairplay - 2010-08-17 08:58

    I don't have any ideas on where to go or what to do, bur what I do know is that the New Zealand rugby union is trying to run SANZAR. They can sight all of our players, but when we complain about Rene Ranger's shoulder charge, nothing happens. The "citers" believe they should cite someone cause it's their job. They can't do what they want. The problem starts with Paddy O'Brien

  • Grant - 2010-08-17 09:03

    Sorry Kirwan, never been a fan of your's since the days of your fail to pitch for the Cavelliers tour. I like to watch rugby, and not referees, New Zealand has always had an arrogance about rugby and the rules, when that changes and hell freezes over I'd say SA should come back to the fold. I think that whe should play super rugby, make the currie cup a prestigeous competition again with true international imports and a bigger league and welcome international touring teams again.

  • BallBoy - 2010-08-17 09:03

    Stupid! South Africa should do their own thing - if only we can de-politicize the issue... We can make a far better contribution to the world of rugby by investing our Rugby prowess (generally speaking) in South America and Africa... Who need the Aussies and the All Blacks? If they want t resort to foul play in order to gain the top spot in the world, so be it - without us they are also just the islands they are supposed to be...

  • mack the blue - 2010-08-17 09:07

    Kirwan is a legend ,and here are my thoughts.Keep everything as is ,but play each tourno in 1 country every 3 years ,every 4th year world cup.The officials should then also be from the country hosting ,except the tv official ,he should be from Europe.This would level the playing fields,and boost tourism for all 3 countries.Keep Bledisloe ,and Mandela Cups seperate.Hey ,its just a thought....and SARU ,please start citing offending players ,we are not the only bad boys...grow a pair ! you are letting yourself be bullied !

  • Mpendulo - 2010-08-17 09:17

    That's a lot of hogwash....let's try this...if the pot was golden, why would a kiwi share the secret with us? Almost like McCaw phoning Matfield with their line-out calls!!! Let's put this straight Mr Kiwi...we might have our silly politicking etc but we in SA are far from Dumb....most of SANZAR money comes from us and we have the numbers... One question: If the Ausies had as favourable time difference to the UK do you think they'll even entertain you.....Also, I think the six nations will jump on a chance to have us...makes them more competitive any case our going will mean that you can't keep your All Blacks as they'll run for the money...some already have....u r a nice guy but don't be silly....

  • George - 2010-08-17 09:18

    For those who watched the Bulls/WP game how many final warnings were given to the Bulls. I counted four. Any difference in this referring as compared to what we saw in NZ. I really don't think so.

  • John - 2010-08-17 09:20

    AB's and Wallabies do not need our money FFS, why are we so arrogant to think that they need us financially for the game to survive in their respective countries? No wonder we lose respect when we carry on and use words like minnows to describe them in terms of world rugby. GET REAL. They survived quite nicely without us but they wanted us included again because we have always been their greatest opponents.

  • Steadfast - 2010-08-17 09:28

    The S14/15 is great rugby. The Currie Cup is not as exciting with Boks gone. Instead of us taking our ball home because we feel agreeved about something we should look at new formats etc. No new ideas seem forthcoming from SARU. Maybe a new look SARU to take SA into a brighter future with rugby on mind and not hidden agendas. If we dumped SANZAR would you get a sold out house like this Saturday playing Wales or Italy. Me thinks no. There has to be a constructive engaement between the top nations.

  • Hobbes - 2010-08-17 09:29

    The game of rugby needs to expand further than it current;y is. the only way for minnow nations to accept and start really gaining from the sport is by them playing top quality teams, not every 4 years in the WC, but EVERY year in super rugby competitions. People who don't see that are blinded by their own ignorance. We can b*tch all we want about not wanting to watch the Bulls or Stormers thrash a Japanese team, but HOW ELSE WILL THE REST OF THE WORLD GROW?? It's a simple thought, with exposure will come experience. it's a matter of time. And by expanding our competition into Asia, or USA and South America, we will give our rugby players greater exposure to better careers, thereby boosting rugby players experience and salaries. it's time to think global.

  • Tjoppie - 2010-08-17 09:56

    We play the same teams to often (AB & Oz). Personally, I would like the Tri-Nations to be played every 2 years.