SUNDAY TIMES - Super Rugby? Not a fat chance in hell
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Sunday Times Rugby By LIAM DEL CARME, 2017-03-19 00:00:00.0

Super Rugby? Not a fat chance in hell

The Cheetahs will receive temporary payment if they are cut from the competition.
Image: Johan Pretorius/Gallo Images

Should they agree to be culled from the competition, the Cheetahs will receive temporary payment as if they are still a Super Rugby entity.

The Sunday Times understands that as part of a Super Rugby exit strategy, the Free State franchise will be offered a deal-sweetening two-year payment after their axing from the competition.

Super Rugby teams receive upwards of R28-million each year, although in some cases franchises who accept wider responsibilities receive about R33-million from SA Rugby.

It had been reported this week that the Cheetahs and Southern Kings will be excluded from the competition when Sanzaar announces plans to revamp the competition in the coming weeks.

Changes to the competition will take effect next season.

At least one Australian franchise will also be kicked into touch and increasingly rumours have centred around the Brumbies and the Rebels having to form an alliance similar to the one that the Lions and the Cheetahs entered into in 1998 to form the Cats.

A local rugby boss who refused to be named said this week that the Cheetahs' and the Kings' expulsion was a fait accompli but when approached for comment, SA Rugby president Mark Alexander appeared incredulous.

"No decision has been taken. How can it be taken? There is still a lot of work to do," said Alexander.

He refused to comment further but did say an announcement was likely after April 6.

Cheetahs chief executive Harold Verster also poured cold water on the notion that a decision had been taken.

He was, however, quoted last week as saying that the Cheetahs would remain part of Super Rugby after Sanzaar announces their revamp.

"The whole thing is under discussion," said Verster. "There is no certainty about anything. We don't know what the final outcome will be. I guess there may be a decision in April when we have our annual meeting. It can't be dragged out beyond that."

Asked if there was any way in which the Cheetahs would find Super Rugby exclusion palatable, Verster appeared reluctant to entertain the idea.

"You can't consider that. If you're not in the mainstream of Super Rugby you are dead. It will be unbelievably difficult. But I still remain positive.

"For the moment, I think the status quo is preserved," said Verster.

Whether Sanzaar can afford to keep the unwieldy competition in its current form next year and beyond is highly debatable. Falling viewership drove them to commission an independent report into the competition and the findings weren't favourable.

Its format, and sheer breadth and duration, found more detractors than fans. Too many participating teams struggle to make ends meet and with parent organisations like SA Rugby and the Australian Rugby Union both in financial peril, handouts cannot continue to be the order of the day.

If the number of teams is reduced from 18, it is almost certain that the Kings will be marched to the sacrificial altar.

In Australia, the Brumbies, despite the fact that they have won the competition twice, face a similar predicament as the Cheetahs. Canberra simply isn't big enough to meet the economic demands to keep a competitive team afloat .