WOLLOGONG, AUSTRALIA – It’s silly season once again in the SANZAR Unions. That period of time in every 4/5 year cycle, where the prospect of a renewed TV deal brings out proposed new formats and old threats as each member Union jostles for position. Answers also come flowing in on how to maximize earnings, how to involve Argentina within the competition or whether to bother doing it at all.
In the past few months all the possibilities have emerged. The only certainty was that Super Rugby was set to expand, with a push from the SARU to accommodate both the Kings and Lions. To even out the numbers, the suggested direction to look for both the ARU and NZRU would be north – to Asia’s Rugby superpower in Japan – as it presents a more intriguing commercial case regarding access to a Rugby marketplace… and most importantly, time zones for our domestic broadcasters.
Then there’s the favoured format of the ARU and SARU, to do away with the current three-conference system and replace it with two-conferences instead. From an Australian perspective, this is the most attractive. It provides 5 games a week in viewer-friendly time zones. Plus, the Trans-Tasman conference containing the 10 current Australian and New Zealand franchises, are the teams Australian viewers want to tune into.
It would also permit the entry of one (or probably two) Argentine franchises into Super Rugby, something that is needed, because after just two seasons in The Rugby Championship, they are competitive partner who’ll likely notch their first win in the next two weeks. Quite an achievement when you consider how long it has taken for Italy to become competitive in the Six Nations. The only issue at present happens to be occurring on the other side of the world. The Rugby Champions Cup – as presented by the LNR and PRL – has elements of the South African Rugby media beating their chests and declaring the imminent departure of South Africa from the SANZAR alliance to join with the rebel competition format. It’s not likely, well as about as likely as it ever has been every time they’ve gestured toward taking their bat and ball and taking off up North. In the end we’ll likely find a tenuous balance of egos and hopefully two conferences of 8-10 teams.
By now you may have noticed the distinct lack of consideration in regards to any possibility of a North American entrant. Well, despite all the throw away lines in the past regarding the possibility of -and the ambition to involve – the USA and North America in Super Rugby, the simple fact remains that unless there is an establishment of an entirely new conference, the old tyranny of distance just doesn’t make it terribly practical. Perhaps a Pan-America conference would answer that.
That’s perhaps the direction anyone endeavouring to establish Pro Rugby in the USA should be looking towards. As SANZAR moves toward lessening the burden of travel on teams, the need to look toward including whole new conferences will be necessary to expand the competition. The future of the competition will look more and more along the lines of the Heineken Cup, with the conferences playing their entire season within their borders, with the top 2 or more advancing to an international finals series.
Competitively, between Canada, the USA and Argentina, there would be the ability to form at least 8 among three nations. Quite often when discussing any possible establishment of Pro Rugby in The States, the issue of Americans only accepting the best, comes into each conversation. Super Rugby is the best… by some margin.
Well, take care until the next time. Feel free to comment below, look for and “Like” our Facebook Rugby Wrap Up Page and follow us on Twitter @: RugbyWrapUp, Junoir Blaber, DJ Eberle, Nick Hall, James Harrington, Cody Kuxmann and Declan Yeats, respectively.