SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux says New Zealand’s plans for a new competition from 2021 were taken with Covid-19 travel restrictions in mind and it does not necessarily mean a disintegration of the Sanzaar partnership, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
Last week, New Zealand Rugby outlined plans to enter its five Vodacom Super Rugby sides into a new competition from 2021, which is set to exclude any South African sides and not involve Argentina’s Jaguares.
It seemingly threw the future of the Sanzaar alliance into doubt, with questions being raised about what route South African rugby will take next year, with most speculation suggesting a likely move to join northern-hemisphere competition.
However, Roux addressed the media via a digital news conference on Tuesday, and provided context to the communication with New Zealand Rugby and SA rugby’s plans for next year.
‘To be fair to our New Zealand counterparts, they’ve consistently raised at our meetings the fact that given the travel restrictions in 2021, travel costs and the likelihood in the reduction of flights to New Zealand, there was every indication that neither South Africa nor Argentina [teams] would be able to enter New Zealand possibly up until the end of May outside of a quarantine process.
‘Every franchise that travelled would have had to go there two weeks ahead of time to be in some kind of quarantine or isolation, train for two weeks without playing a match, play the matches and then have to suffer the same process when coming back into the country. Now that’s just not a viable option and the New Zealand government hasn’t given permission for that.
‘New Zealand has opted to play a domestic competition first before a possible crossover competition within the old Super Rugby format. That format is still being discussed by Sanzaar and there are different options on the table.
‘I see we are being deemed as having been kicked out of Super Rugby. If anything, New Zealand kicked themselves out of it.
Roux reiterated that any legally-binding change to Super Rugby in the long term would need to be a joint decision taken at executive level.
‘New Zealand has every right to determine its future, but in terms of Sanzaar’s joint venture agreement, there is a very legal agreement in place and you have to act within it. If you are in breach of that joint venture agreement, you make yourself liable for legal action from the other parties.
‘But we have always dealt with everything in a very constructive fashion at Sanzaar and we are still having discussions as to what 2021 will look like.’
He added that SA Rugby was certainly considering other options available to it, but that nothing could be specified at this time.
‘I wouldn’t be doing my job not to look at plan B or plan C, and I’ve been doing that for a long time, and there are a few options on the table. We can’t touch on that just yet, but it is a long way down the road in terms of having different options that will probably suit us better, and which will help us build towards the direction we think we probably need to head towards over the next few years. So, we are making plans, but there’s nothing to announce right now, and we have to weigh up options in the Sanzaar environment.’
Ultimately, Roux said the only thing that was certain right now is that there will be considerable change to the rugby landscape.
‘The world of rugby is currently trying to get 2020 out of the way, that’s probably the best way to describe it, either by finishing off competitions or beginning to look towards the 2020-21 season, and what they will they look like.
‘If anyone thinks rugby, and particularly international and domestic rugby, will return to any format that’s close to the format that existed at the end of 2019 and the start of 2020, you’d be making a big mistake and so would we.
‘The market has corrected itself, and that was due anyway. In terms of pay TV and structures around broadcasting, and the way we consume rugby, a change was due, and we will undergo that change now due to Covid.
‘Ultimately, we can’t project what rugby will look like in years to come, and to do that would be very bold and brave, because the only thing you can be sure of is that there will be change … we’re in flux.’
Photo: Grant Pitcher/Gallo Images