SA can’t keep six franchises

SA Rugby cannot have four franchises in Super Rugby and another two in a European competition, writes SIMON BORCHARDT.

Last month, SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux explained why South Africa was giving up two of its six Super Rugby franchises. 

'From a South African rugby high-performance perspective we’ve had to acknowledge that the dilution of talent and resources across six franchises – at a time when rand weakness has led to more departures to Europe and Japan – has seriously affected our ability to compete across the board,' he said.

'As a rugby nation we need several strong franchises, all of whom are in with a serious chance of challenging for the title, and we could no longer say that. A reduction in the number of South African franchises was the unavoidable conclusion, especially when put in the context of Sanzaar's long-term strategy of adding to our tournaments’ appeal and commercial success which, in time, will mean greater returns for SA Rugby.'

So, in a nutshell, SA Rugby cannot financially sustain six franchises and, because of the player drain, cannot field six strong franchises. Fair enough.

Someone, though, must have forgotten to tell Mark Alexander, because the SA Rugby president now says all six SA franchises will be retained.

'The whole plan is to ensure that the two teams [who are axed from Super Rugby] will take part in other competitions from 2018,' Alexander said. 'We do not want to condemn them to the wilderness. So if all goes well, all [six South African] teams will participate in an international tournament.'

The international tournament for the two axed franchises would most likely be the Pro12, which includes teams from Ireland (four), Wales (four), Scotland (two) and Italy (two).

But retaining six South African franchises, and having two of them play in Europe, does not make any sense.

The whole point of having just four South African franchises is to ensure they are financially sustainable and the country's dwindling pool of professional players is spread across four franchises and not six.

If the Cheetahs and Kings are axed from Super Rugby, as looks likely, then their best players should be drafted into the remaining four Super Rugby franchises in order to strengthen them. SA Rugby also has to, according to the Sanzaar broadcasting deal, ensure that the best South Africa-based players take part in Super Rugby.

If this happens, would the Pro12 organisers still want weakened Cheetahs and Kings teams to join their competition, which already has a much lower status than the French Top 14 and English Premiership?

As harsh as it sounds, the two axed franchises must become feeder unions for the remaining four franchises, while continuing to compete in the Provincial Rugby Challenge and Currie Cup.

They certainly cannot expect to take part in both the Currie Cup and Pro12, as seven rounds of the Pro12 take place in September and October, which is when the Currie Cup is played. The Pro12 organisers aren't going to move their tournament to accommodate South African sides, and SA Rugby won't be happy having a Free State B team in the Currie Cup.

SA Rugby has made a tough but necessary decision to axe two franchises. Roux, Alexander and co must now stick with it, and stop trying to keep everyone happy.

Photo: Frikkie Kapp/Gallo Images

Post by