Axe looms over Cheetahs, Kings
The Times has had confirmation from two sources that the Southern Kings and Cheetahs from South Africa and the Melbourne Rebels from Australia will be cut from super Rugby, although the time frame remains unclear.
Japan's Sunwolves and Argentina's Jaguares will survive as the tournament reverts to 15 teams - where it was between 2012 and 2015.
Although Sanzaar's official stance has been neutral following meetings in London last week, it did hint that there would be significant changes to, not only super Rugby, but also the organisation's structure.
Culling the Kings and Rebels makes sense for various reasons.
The Kings are not viable, they haven't found a sponsor, they can't attract top players, their largest member union, Eastern Province, was liquidated and they are surviving on grants from SA Rugby.
The Rebels have been unable to gain traction in Melbourne and their existence has diluted Australia's thin player base.
Five franchises are too many in a country with fewer than 40000 registered senior male players - that's according to the last World Rugby census.
As for the Cheetahs, cold analysis indicates that they have done little to warrant automatic inclusion in Super rugby in terms of producing Springbok players.
Grey College in Bloemfontein is the real Springbok nursery and not the Cheetahs franchise. At an amateur level Free State rugby will still thrive because of the conveyor belt out of Grey College.
But that conveyor belt has not led to Super rugby success because the best players are eventually contracted all over the country.
Delving into the Cheetahs' contribution to Super rugby further, the numbers don't stack up.
Their average attendance is fewer than 10 000 fans per home game, which is paltry. In 11 seasons as a standalone franchise the Cheetahs have reached the play-offs only once - in 2013.
That season they won 10 out of 16 matches. They've not won more than five games a season in any other year. From 2006 to last weekend, the Cheetahs had played 164 games, won 52, lost 109 and drawn three - a winning ratio of 31.7%.
Other SA franchise records:
Bulls - Played 260, won, 128 lost 126, drew 6. Winning ratio 49.2% (3 titles, seven play-offs)
Kings - Played 34, won 6, lost 27, drew 1. Winning Ratio 17.6%
Lions (including Cats) - Played 240, won 75, lost 160, drew 5. Winning ratio 31.2% (three play-offs, one runner-up)
Sharks - Played 264, won 137, lost 121, drew 6. Winning ratio 51.9% (10 play-offs, four runners-up)
Stormers - Played 259, won 140, lost 113, drew 6. Winning ratio 54.1% (one runner-up, seven play-offs)
- TMG Digital