Sun Dec 04 14:17:10 SAST 2016

Brace yourself for rugby without the Sharks or Stormers

The Editor, The Times Newspaper | 2012-02-16 00:32:44.0

When South African rugby stamps its foot, the rest of the football world just cracks up.

This week we had some of our rugby top brass threatening a boycott of the Super 15 while others insisted they would be able to get an extra team into the competition.

All you could hear in response were guffaws from the Aussies and Kiwis, who are meant to be South Africa's partners in the venture.

The Super 15, the great southern-hemisphere rugby cartel run by a conglomeration called Sanzar (for South Africa, New Zealand, Australian rugby), is not about to throw open its doors for a sixth South African team. The contracts were locked down long ago for the great cash cow of TV rights and the Aussies or Kiwis are unwilling to undo all that to save South African rugby's butt.

South Africa's rugby provinces have voted to let in the effete Southern Kings - if only because they capitulated to government and political pressure. They realised at the time of the voting that one of the other five teams would have to opt out of the lucrative competition next year to allow in the team from the Eastern Cape. But they failed to give the repercussions any thought.

Now the South African Rugby Union must decide on a method to eliminate one of the five. Will it be straight relegation for the last South African team in this year's Super 15? And what if that team should be the Stormers? Or the Sharks? Even if it turns out to be the Lions, as everyone expects, it will mean no big rugby in the biggest market.

Expect a lot of hand-wringing from the South African rugby hierarchy once poor Jurie Roux, the South African Rugby Union chief executive, gets short shrift from the Aussies and Kiwis when he goes there to plead the case for a sixth South African team.

South African rugby bosses have made a poor decision. They now need to do some reactive thinking to get out of the hole they have dug for themselves. Will they be up to it?

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