Super Rugby lifeline for Lions?

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Lions_launch Gallo Images Anthony Volmink (left), Deon Helberg (centre) and Andries Coetzee during the 2013 Lions Challenge squad launch.

Johannesburg – In an ideal world Super Rugby will expand to 20 teams next year, meaning there will be no promotion-relegation match for the Lions to contemplate later this season.

As things stand, the Super Rugby competition, with 15 teams playing in three conferences in South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, will potentially only expand from the 2016 season when the broadcasting deal is renegotiated and possibly renewed.

But with South Africa desperate to have six teams playing in the competition as soon as possible, there is hope the competition’s rights holders as well as Sanzar, the governing body of the competition, can reach an earlier agreement about expansion.

Were that to happen the Lions, who have been replaced in the Super Rugby competition this year by the Southern Kings, would not have to play a promotion-relegation match against the worst-performing SA team at the end of this year’s competition. An expansion to 20 teams next year, with 10 teams playing in two pools, would mean South Africa could have six teams, New Zealand could opt for a further team to also have six, with Australia remaining with five. That would make it 17 teams and open the door for teams from Japan, Argentina, the US and Canada to potentially also join the competition.

A month out from the start of the 2013 Super Rugby season, the Lions are preparing to face the Cheetahs in a friendly at Ellis Park on Saturday

JC Janse van Rensburg’s team are keeping themselves busy by playing a host of friendlies in preparation for their promotion-relegation match, but if SA Rugby have their way, the Lions may, in fact, not have to play that game, something which would also benefit the Kings, who are desperate to stay a part of Super Rugby beyond this season.

CEO of SA Rugby Jurie Roux didn’t want to discuss the possibility of Super Rugby expanding sooner than anticipated, but said: “A sub-committee has been formed to look at Vodacom Super Rugby expansion and the opportunities may be out there as Greg (Peters) has described.

“But it’s a little premature to begin to speculate around the details – let’s allow the sub-committee to work out what is feasible.”

Peters, the CEO of Sanzar, was on Thursday quoted in Australia as saying: “Super Rugby in its present form is a pretty successful model … and we are not going to water it down.

“But we’d be derelict in our duty if we didn’t consider expanding into (new) areas. The United States is a very big market and so is Japan and Asia generally. Ultimately it all comes down to what is in the best interests of the three Sanzar parties.” – The Star



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