SA edges closer to rugby wilderness

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JOHANNESBURG. — As South Africa faces the reality of a prolonged coronavirus lockdown, it also appears more and more certain it shall be overlooked for a new trans-Tasman competition to replace Super Rugby.

Calls are growing Down Under to begin urgent discussions regarding a replacement for Super Rugby going forward, one that doesn’t involve South Africa.

As figures suggest Australia and New Zealand are moving closer to life as normal following the coronavirus pandemic, talks are expected next week to provide more clarity on a potential rugby calendar in Australasia and the surrounding Pacific Island nations at least.

The latest to join the chorus for Australasian and Oceania rugby-playing countries to go it alone comes from current Brumbies coach Dan McKellar who has backed calls for a drastic Super Rugby shake-up, saying a trans-Tasman competition would be a “great product”.

McKellar said a July return was “optimistic but realistic” and beyond that administrators must look at ways to cut costs and attract new investment.

According to the Stuff website, McKellar agreed cutting South African and Argentinian teams was one solution, admitting the thought of a trans-Tasman competition that included a Japanese presence excited him.

“Australia and New Zealand teams, Japan off the back of a Rugby World Cup, and the uniqueness that a team like the (Tokyo-based) Sunwolves bring.

“A trans-Tasman comp with an Asian and Pacific feel to it would be a great competition to be involved in and a good product; I think broadcasters would love to get behind it and support it and players would enjoy it as well.”

 

It’s a concept Rugby Australia are at least open to in the short term, especially after the resumption of trans-Tasman was travel flagged by Prime Minister Scott Morrison as an option last week.

While a domestic league featuring the Western Force is the likely first step, McKellar said matches against New Zealand Super Rugby outfits would be ideal, while a Bledisloe Cup series could still be on the cards for later this year.

Key scheduled discussions between Wallaby pair Michael Hooper and Matt Toomua, and Waratahs hooker and Rugby Union Players Association president Damien Fitzpatrick, with their New Zealand counterparts next week should help that process.

So where does that leave South Africa? At the bottom of Africa with little to no confirmation of any rugby on the horizon. Geographically-speaking alone, South Africa are in a perilous position as exorbitant travel costs are at the best of times draining on the coffers of unions.

And in the current world of the coronavirus reality, why cross the Indian Ocean when you can just cross the Tasman? It appears in 2020 that the absolute best-case scenario SA Rugby faces is that this year’s Currie Cup (if played) could be the most competitive in years as the Springboks play a full part in its duration.

And in 2021 it appears that an inter-SA Super Rugby Conference tournament is the only solution, perhaps with the Cheetahs and Kings thrown in if the next PRO14 season scheduled tentatively to kick off in August/September doesn’t go ahead. — Sport24.

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