8 pro teams, not 14, in SARU's future
South African rugby is likely to comprise of eight professional teams in future, with the rest being semi-pro or amateur, if the big changes proposed to the structure of SARU are undertaken.
The eight teams – four in Vodacom Super Rugby, and four in a possible competition in a new market, backed up by a strong Currie Cup competition based on strength vs strength are part of the radical changes being proposed to SARU’s structures in future to streamline the game and bring rugby into a sustainable future.
It is clear the current structures aren’t working and despite the outcry over the axing of two Super Rugby teams this week, results underline SARU’s contention that the economy of the game at the moment can only support four franchises in the competition.
But while the pain of being excluded from Super Rugby is a bitter pill to swallow, SARU are busy with plans to find a new home for the two axed teams, as well as a new competition where four professional sides can support their Super Rugby allies in a second-tier competition that would see new markets being explored.
SARU CEO told journalists this week that with the advent of the global season being finalised by World Rugby, it now meant that SARU could well look to new markets for new competitions. But this would mean taking some tough decsisions in the interests of SA Rugby.
“It is high time we take tough decisions in the interests of SA Rugby,” Jurie Roux said.
“It is high time we acknowledge we have a responsibility to take those tough decisions. This is what we as staff are paid for and certainly what people are elected for. This is the right time to make these decisions. Will people be angry? Yes they will be angry, will people be disappointed? Yes, they will be disappointed. My job is to get past that decision and then my next job is to find them somewhere else to play. Up until now that was impossible, given the decisions on the global season that has not been sorted.
“There has been a pact between the southern and northern hemisphere not to do any deals until that has been sorted. The global season has been sorted until 2032, we know every nation we will play against until 2032.
“We always have to allow for different competitions and now for the first time we are being approached by different entities for us to play.”
Roux said that in an ideal world SARU would have eight professional teams and this is the direction the national body is moving in.
“ In an ideal world we would probably have eight professional teams playing in different competitions in the world and then you would still have your 14 unions playing in the other competitions on a semi-professional basis. I’ve been advocating this since 2011 and it is high time that people listen to it.
“If I am wrong, then so be it but I will be trying to chase that as hard as I can. We need strength vs Strength but we need our aspirational platform, we need our platform where the amateurs and the semi-professionals can play but we need 8 professional sides in this country that can play at a professional level and hopefully this will be the first steps towards that.”
Roux said instead of simply looking to survive, SARU was looking to strengthen rugby and that meant not diluting the product.
“You can economically survive, if you sacrifice a lot on other things. Where do we not want to sacrifice, we don’t want to sacrifice on Currie Cup. We create more Springboks out of Currie Cup than we do out of Super Rugby. We need to get Currie Cup up to the level where it used to be, and that means strength vs strength. So when I am talking about professional teams I am talking about 8 purely professional teams, getting the players divided among those teams and making sure we have a good spread of players in those 8 teams, and then the semi-professionals.
“We cannot get rid of the semi-professional sides, we can’t get rid of our 14 unions. If we get rid of our 14 unions we take away the base of rugby. The base of rugby is our schools rugby, our clubs, our amateur structures and then our semi-professional teams. “We just need to look at the distribution of the funds among those enitites and we need to make sure that there are 8 full professional teams, not necessarily all of them playing in Sanzar, because that is a different bill and a different account.”
SARU’s franchise committee is currently busy reviewing criteria to choose the two sides that will exit Super Rugby at the end of this season.