Any potential move up north to join the Pro14 would serve only as motive to boost the self esteem of local Super Rugby franchises, believes colourful former Springbok coach Peter de Villiers.
While Super Rugby governing body Sanzaar this week poured cold water over potential breakaway plans by stating that contractual issues would commit them to 2030, the persistent calls for change was ongoing.
Calls had been rife for a series exclusively featuring Australasian teams, while there had also been plenty of talk of the four local Super Rugby franchises joining the Cheetahs and Kings in the Pro14.
“There should be no doubt that Super Rugby is good for our game and a move to join the Pro14 would only serve to boost our egos, and suppress our creative minds,” said De Villiers, who guided the Boks to Rugby Championship glory and a win over the British and Irish Lions in 2009.
“In comparison, the Pro14 game is very slow. If you have a good look at their matches there’s always a situation of one pass, then a ruck, followed by a forward pass and then a scrum.”
De Villiers believed one of the main reasons why South Africa had only three Super Rugby titles to show over 25 years – all by virtue of the Bulls – was that the local game could not find the proper balance between creative attack and defence.
“One can look when two local sides play one another on any given day. We all say ‘wow, great game’, but then when we play teams from Australasia we are being exposed out wide,” he said.
“We are simply not creative enough to provide the space in the wider channels.”
The Lions’ performances between 2016 and 2018 were a prime example of where the local game could be headed, according to De Villiers, under the proper progression.
“What the Lions did well was to have a sound set piece. But they also realised the spaces are not around the tight phases,” he said.
“They utilised that very well by playing close to the advantage line, creating quick possession and utilising the wider channels. For me they played a combination of traditional Blue Bull and Western Province rugby.”
De Villiers felt the habit of copying New Zealand rugby was one of the biggest mistakes South African teams could make.
“It’s no use if we get high-profile coaches and they don’t know how to coach a creative mindset,” he said.
“New Zealand teams actually make the most mistakes of everyone, but they compensate through their ability to kick clever and get possession back.”