When the chief executive of SA Rugby talks about “problems in Sanzaar” and feeling “shackled” by the southern hemisphere rugby body, then it is clear South African rugby sees its future as lying elsewhere.
While Jurie Roux admitted that SA Rugby’s relationship with Sanzaar is not ideal, he stressed that there were no plans to leave the alliance with New Zealand, Australia and Argentina, even though South African rugby will be dallying elsewhere with northern hemisphere competitions like the Pro14.
“This is a very exciting time for South African rugby. We feel shackled in Sanzaar but now we have the opportunity to go north. It gives us options. People think that the Pro14 move is just about the Cheetahs and Kings, but it’s so much more than that,” Saru’s chief executive said on Monday at the announcement of FNB becoming a sponsor of the Springboks.
“With the world calendar not aligned, we were all signing six or seven-year deals that were out of sync with each other. But now we have so many more opportunities and options. I’m super-excited for the Pro14. It’s an elegant solution for our Sanzaar problems.
“We don’t have options in Sanzaar, which means you’re actually nowhere and that’s not where you want to be. But we are really good for each other, so we will still participate in Sanzaar; we are strong because we play against Australia and New Zealand.”
Roux also reiterated that streamlining is the name of the game in Super Rugby’s future.
“We can never have eight franchises in Sanzaar, we can have four or five maximum and maybe we’ll even go down to three. But at least we now have options. We still need to play against Australia and New Zealand to be the best, so I don’t see the relationship ending. It’s just the way and how we play that will change. And we’ll have more international exposure up north.”
The CEO added that the whole structure of South African rugby competitions would change in 2020 when the global calendar kicks into play.
Roux admitted that the Kings and Cheetahs were like guinea-pigs as they take the first steps into the brave new world of European rugby.
“The Kings will be ready, but it will be a very tough first year for them, although they’ve gone through that before and done pretty well, with Deon Davids one of the most under-rated coaches around. You must watch them from the second year onwards. The Cheetahs are more established and will be there or thereabouts.
“We needed to go north at some stage and we’ll have proof of concept now, you’ll be able to see if it works.”