Former Springbok and Vodacom Bulls boss Heyneke Meyer has admitted he will remain a staunch advocate for Super Rugby despite South Africa’s breakaway from the competition to join an extended PRO16 in Europe.
SA Rugby’s decision to pull its four top franchises from Super Rugby and enter them into the PRO Rugby competition, has attracted intense and varying reactions from the rugby fraternity.
The latest to comment on the move to Europe is Meyer, who spoke candidly in an interview with Sport24.
‘I was and remain an advocate for Super Rugby,’ Meyer said. ‘I’m aware people will argue that I have a love for the tournament because we won it, but that’s the way it is to a large extent with many coaches. If you win a trophy, you like the tournament.
‘Let’s not beat around the bush, we played some top quality sides. Some of them can even be labelled the best in the world. That surely put us in good stead,’ he argued.
‘Super Rugby’s big misstep was the emphasis on local derbies. I was always wary of it. In a South African context, you were playing each other at least twice, a double round of the Currie Cup and some warm-ups. Some years, that would total to eight games. Did it draw the crowds and capture the imagination later on?
‘Nonetheless, I still believe the product was good, particularly Super 12 and Super 14. I was a big fan of Super Rugby’s travel factor. There’s a really simple reason for that. The travel put teams under pressure and with that pressure came opportunities to build one’s mental toughness.’
‘I used to chuckle a bit when local French teams felt exhausted from a two-hour flight to Cardiff, for example. That’s two hours. Our players sometimes had to fly two days. It’s interesting to see how situations differ. The travel was tough, but it helped us too.’
Meyer added that he believes the move to the PRO16 was down to commercial value and investment.
‘I fully understand why SA Rugby had to do this, but it shows that, in the end, decisions are down to the money involved. It’s the lifeblood of the sport.’
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