SA Rugby has reiterated that consensus from all Sanzaar partners preceded the decision to remove the Sunwolves from Vodacom Super Rugby after next year. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
On 22 March, Sanzaar issued a media release to confirm that a revised Super Rugby format would come into effect from 2021, with the Sunwolves dropping out of the existing 15-team Super Rugby competition.
Besides touting the value of a 14-team round-robin format following ‘detailed analysis and a thorough [tournament] review’, Sanzaar CEO Andy Marinos sought to explain the reasoning behind the Sunwolves’ removal.
‘Sanzaar was advised by the Japan Rugby Football Union [JRFU] in early March that they would no longer be in a position to financially underwrite the Sunwolves future participation post 2020,’ he commented. ‘The future of the Sunwolves will now be determined by the JRFU, which has determined that Super Rugby no longer remains the best pathway for the development of players for the national team.’
However, according to Kyodo News, it had more specifically become untenable for the JRFU to meet the demands of providing a reported ‘$5-million participation fee, $2-million in travel expenses and [to] forego broadcast rights that could have brought in a further $2-million’.
‘It was not that we were unwilling to underwrite the Sunwolves, we just couldn’t agree to the financial terms presented to us by Sanzaar with other demands on our budget,’ JRFU chairman Noriyuki Sakamoto stated.
As rumours and recriminations continue to swirl, so the suggestion has arisen from some quarters that the South African rugby body was the primary instigator pushing for the Sunwolves to be cut from the competition.
Earlier this week, Sunwolves coach Tony Brown voiced this allegation in no uncertain terms, while also suggesting that the decision had been influenced by SA Rugby’s anger over losing the 2023 World Cup hosting rights.
Japan voted for France, instead of South Africa, to host the 10th edition of the global tournament, despite the fact that South Africa went into the final stage of the process as World Rugby’s ‘preferred candidate’.
‘Nothing’s easy for the Sunwolves and obviously the devastating news that we were going to be out of the competition in 2021 is very disappointing,’ Brown told Fox Sports. ‘There were so many things that went on and the South Africans were just dead against having the Sunwolves involved.
‘There’s a bit of resentment from what happened at the World Cup vote a few years ago, and it’s a relationship that’s been pretty rough ever since the Sunwolves joined Super Rugby.’
When SA Rugby was approached for a response, a spokesperson reiterated that it was policy to not comment on opinion, but pointed out the position stated by Sanzaar in last week’s release.
‘It is a Sanzaar decision, agreed to by consensus by all four member countries, as explained in the recent Sanzaar media statement.’
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