Former All Blacks flyhalf Andrew Mehrtens has thrown his support behind the idea of a trans-Tasman Vodacom Super Rugby without South African teams.
Sanzaar has already moved to rebuff talk of a potential breakaway tournament involving Australian, New Zealand and Asian teams. The governing body has confirmed that it has already sold the concept of the 14-team Super Rugby tournament – set to take place from 2021 – as well as the Rugby Championship to broadcasters.
However, New Zealand Rugby is still conducting the Aratipu review of Super Rugby.
The tournament is set to drop from 15 teams to 14 from next year after Japan’s Sunwolves were booted from the competition. Tournament organisers are currently in discussions over what the best model for Super Rugby is going forward.
Speaking on the Off the Ball podcast, Mehrtens said the tournament would benefit from being played solely in New Zealand and Australian time zones.
‘New Zealand is going to benefit ultimately from a revamped Super Rugby, and Australia will too,’ Mehrtens said.
‘I’ve said for quite a while now that while, the competition has expanded, it hasn’t expanded in a consistent or logical way. It’s just added a couple of teams here and there. It went to 14, 15, then it went to 18 and dropped back down.
‘The hindrance in Super Rugby is that there are games in Argentina now and the time zone is not great for New Zealand and Australia, the same with South Africa. Not many people are watching even their own teams at 3am in the morning coming out of South Africa.’
Mehrtens – who was born in Durban – said he has no issue with South African rugby but added that the time was right to make a change.
‘It’s nothing against South Africa, but I think the competition would be much better more localised to one time zone or expanding into Asia. The logical place for South Africa to expand would be places like Dubai.
‘Super Rugby needs to wipe out those big divides in terms of the time zones. I would love to see a trans-Tasman competition in this time zone.
‘I don’t hate South Africa at all but what I’m concerned about is the rugby product and I think that is suffering at the moment through the structure of Super Rugby.’
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