Cape Town –The format of the Currie Cup is set to return to an eight-team competition in 2014, but the future of Super Rugby may be determined by money.
The South African Rugby Union will hold two scheduled meetings in Cape Town over the next two days, with the executive committee gathering on Thursday and the General Council (all 14 provinces) meetimg on Friday.
The Council are set for a re-vote on the Currie Cup after they were unable to reach a majority decision on changing it from six teams to eight on September 30. A 75% majority is required, and insiders have told the Cape Times that a couple of the smaller unions, believed to have voted against expansion in the previous meeting, will choose to support an eight-team tournament this time around.
That would see Griquas, who lost a promotion-relegation series against the Pumas, as well as the EP Kings join the six sides already determined for 2014 – Sharks, WP, Cheetahs, Lions, Blue Bulls and the promoted Pumas.
But there is still much to be discussed about Super Rugby from 2016, when a new TV broadcast deal will come into effect, which is set to be debated at a Saru executive committee meeting on Thursday.
A few weeks ago Saru president Oregan Hoskins told the Cape Times that he would like to see a 17-team competition played on a round-robin basis, with the Southern Kings and a side from Argentina being added.
That proposal was discussed at a Sanzar meeting in London recently, but no decision was made. Now it appears as if there is a possibility of the current conference format staying in place, although the Kings would definitely be added.
It is understood that Saru are trying to secure a greater share of the revenue from the TV broadcast deal than the current equal share with New Zealand and Australia.
While Saru and the New Zealand Rugby Union see merit in a round-robin format where all teams play each other, Saru may then not be able to warrant a bigger piece of the financial pie as there would be fewer local derbies, which affect viewership ratings.
So sticking with a three-conference format and a double round of derbies – with the Kings being the sixth SA team, a declaration confirmed by Sanzar boss Greg Peters and Saru chief Jurie Roux – may be the outlet for Saru to demand a larger cut from the new TV deal.
There is a growing sentiment, though, that a round-robin format is the best way forward for Super Rugby. It is hoped that a final decision on the Super Rugby format would be made in March next year.