PRO16, Rugby Championship ... SA Rugby gets the best of both worlds
DURBAN - The revelation that the Springboks have committed to the Rugby Championship for the next 10 years is hugely positive for South African rugby, and with our provincial teams joining the Pro16, it means this country has the best of both worlds.
There are benefits to be had for playing in Europe just as there are positives to maintaining a relationship with world rugby leaders in New Zealand and Australia, so this latest development means South African rugby has a foot in each hemisphere, which should translate into healthy growth.
As SA Rugby boss Jurie Roux pointed out, southern hemisphere countries have won five of the six World Cups that have been held since the game turned professional in 1996, the year that the Tri
Nations was formed (later to become the Rugby Championship when Argentina joined).
I don’t think it is a coincidence that New Zealand, South African and Australia have dominated the World Cup in this period given the fierceness of the competition between the All Blacks, Springboks and Wallabies, with the Pumas no slouches themselves.
While the Boks are the worthy World Cup holders, the All Blacks consistently set the pace in international rugby – let’s not kid ourselves on this one – and it makes plenty of sense for the Boks to maintain their close association with their traditional rivals.
Meanwhile, the addition of the Bulls, Sharks, Lions and Stormers to the northern hemisphere’s
Pro16 makes sense on a number of fronts – it is geographically a far better option, financially it is substantially more lucrative than Super Rugby and, as the Cheetahs and Kings players will tell you, there are significant nuances the players pick up from playing in different conditions in a different hemisphere.
The fact that the Boks will continue in the Rugby Championship but have ditched Super Rugby is an admission that the one competition remains healthy while the other has slowly and painfully imploded over the last decade, pretty much since the heady days of the exciting Super 12.
Sanzaar’s continued fiddling with the recipe for that competition ultimately killed it off.
It is also exciting that the Championship is to be refreshed without it being expanded. It will remain Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa but there will now be 12 home and away games and “mini-tours” as Sanzaar have put it.
It was interesting to hear Sanzaar CEO Andy Marinos say that this news on the Championship is only the beginning, an “important start.”
“This is the first of a number of announcements that will be made over the coming weeks and months as we continue to plan into 2021 and beyond,” Marinos said. “There are some exciting times ahead for rugby in the southern hemisphere as we look to reposition our structure, competitions and future direction as an organisation.”