Face off: Would Super Rugby be missed next year?

In the latest SA Rugby magazine, CRAIG LEWIS and WADE PRETORIUS debate whether SA rugby would miss being part of Super Rugby in 2021?


A considerable shake-up to Super Rugby and the Sanzaar alliance is long overdue. For too long, an ever-expanding Super Rugby competition has come under fire for losing its lustre, and yet it has also seemed to be viewed as a case of ‘better the devil you know than the devil you don’t’.

The Sanzaar partnership has been the foundation on which so much has been based for such a long time that any significant change appears to be something to be feared.

Yet, the rugby world as we know it is has been shaken to its core by the coronavirus pandemic.

New Zealand Rugby took the opportunity to review Super Rugby and assess what they want, and this has been made clear: a new competition in 2021 that ‘fans would love, that was competitive on the field, that players wanted to play in and that drove commercial growth that could be reinvested back into our game’.

SA Rugby should not be afraid to embrace a similar act of self-interest and self-preservation. For so long, the benefits of embracing a move into northern hemisphere competitions have been voiced by plenty of high-profile players and coaches.

When it comes to travel, finances and a new product with commercial appeal, there are more than enough factors in favour of South African rugby blazing its own trail into a new competition from 2021.

As the world champs, it should not be underestimated what pulling power SA rugby and its players have, while opportunities to refocus on strengthening the domestic game have become increasingly relevant in an isolating world.

The time has arrived to roll with the changes which have been escalated as a result of a world game that has come dramatically under review.

READ: What’s in our latest issue?


While the Super Rugby product might be stale … yes, I’ve been one of many who have criticised it in the past, the post-coronavirus look and feel in 2021 and beyond could be the lift it needed.

To be the best, you have to beat the best. Next season was shaping up to be just that with the Sharks and to a lesser extent, the Stormers, showing that they could match the Kiwi sides for power and precision. And most importantly log points.

The way to remedy the competition was simple … cut the deadwood and less competitive sides (did no one think about a promotion/relegation aspect?) and turn it back into the ultimate continental event it once was. The Jaguares have improved and deserve a spot, while the best South African sides, despite the ongoing talent drain, continue to attract attention and TV viewership.

The time-zone hurdle will always be there but a smaller say 10 sides home and away competition with a semi-final and final would grab viewers. If anything, cut back on the number of domestic franchises, and strengthen a new version of the Currie Cup that sees only the top four sides qualifying for the next year’s Super showdown.

As long as the All Black stars feature in Super Rugby, it iss always well worth watching any Kiwi derby or any time a South African side came up against them. It brought crowds to our stadiums and couches were occupied most Saturday mornings.

During the lockdown, SA Rugby magazine trawled the archives and continued to show the best of the best competition there has ever been. To discard 25 years of excellent entertainment was surely not the way to go. Benetton, Zebre and the Glasgow Warriors or the Crusaders, Hurricanes and Brumbies?

Anything is for sale these days, or at least negotiable. Why wouldn’t a proper revamp of Super Rugby be top of the ‘to-do’ list for the best teams in South Africa, New Zealand and Australia? We’re going to miss it when it’s gone.

*This article first appeared in the latest SA Rugby magazine, now on sale!

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Craig Lewis