• Northern competitions close to ‘Test level’

    Earlier this week, director of rugby Rassie Erasmus shared some of the prospective benefits of more South African teams playing in the northern hemisphere.

    On Tuesday, one of the worst-kept secrets in South African rugby was officially confirmed when it was revealed the existing Vodacom Super Rugby franchises are in line to make the transition into an expanded PRO Rugby competition.

    On Monday, Erasmus was asked to comment on what the benefits could be IF more teams played in the north, and he moved to reiterate that he was not suggesting it ‘was the way to go’.

    READ: Why SA Rugby is seeking northern-hemisphere future

    However, he did explain what benefits he foresaw if teams moved up north, which is now set to happen with the Vodacom Bulls, Sharks, Lions and Stormers receiving the vote to head into an expanded PRO16.

    ‘The first benefit is that as a fan, you’ll be watching the game in the same time zone. You’ll watch it in the afternoon, have a braai and a few beers with mates. It makes a difference.

    ‘For us as coaches and players, you can get on a plane, sleep on it and actually play the next day. That’s nice, for broadcasting and for your own planning. There are regular flights that you can get everywhere.

    ‘You will play against countries’ best players who are normally ranked high on the world rankings. But, when you think where Argentina and Australia are currently ranked, they’re 10th and seventh, respectively. Ireland is invariably in the top four. Wales is always in the top five. Even Scotland remains very competitive.

    ‘Those are the benefits. I can tell you of a lot of problems, too, but in my opinion, the moment people start knowing the players who play there, they’ll discover there are a lot of South Africans in those leagues.

    ‘They’ll see those players are very good and play at a level close to Test- match rugby.’

    ALSO READ: Domestic tournaments overhauled

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    Craig Lewis