Scepticism over the future of Super Rugby was renewed on Monday with New Zealand Rugby (NZR) announcing a review into the Southern Hemisphere competition in order to make it ”relevant and sustainable”.
Under constant criticism over its ever-changing format featuring 15 teams from five countries over 16 time zones and dwindling crowds, especially in Australasia, Super Rugby is set to suffer huge financial losses after grinding to a halt after seven rounds in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
NZR boss Mark Robinson said that although the Kiwis remain committed to Super Rugby’s governing body Sanzaar and its broadcast partners “for the next five years”, the review will look at a range of options that would be beneficial for New Zealand.
New Zealand have dominated the competition since its inception in 1996, with Kiwi teams winning 17 of the 24 titles on offer.
NZR’s plans follow in the wake of Rugby Australia chairman Paul McLean’s comments to The Australian newspaper that he doubted South Africa and Argentina’s Super Rugby involvement once the competition resumes.
“I can’t see and (NZR) can’t see South Africa and Argentina being involved anywhere in the short term along the way,” McLean said.
Lions CEO Rudolf Straeuli, however, said on Monday that it is premature to speculate on Super Rugby’s future.
“To talk about any any New Zealand-Australia breakaway from South Africa is purely sensational and speculative. Every country is now putting structures in place to launch their own competition as the main challenge will remain to get through this very difficult period for everyone,” Straeuli told The Citizen.
”These are sensitive times for everyone and it is now vital to maintain those channels with people you have build up sound relationships in the past.”
Wallaby flyhalf Matt Toomua also called for wholesale changes to Super Rugby at the weekend.
“I think there’s a lot of people who are wanting to have a domestic model for quite a while now, whether it be Australia-focused or Australia-New Zealand focused or something along those lines.
“I guess this is almost forcing us to do it, whether it be in the short term until those borders open or whether it be long-term into something else that’s a bit more sustainable, bit more domestically focused,” Toomua told rugby.co.au.
A local domestic competition between the four Super Rugby franchises and the Kings and Cheetahs have been tabled to run between June and August as an alternative to the Super Rugby and Pro14-competitions.
- Additional reporting by Reuters and AFP.