SANZAAR has dismissed reports that world champions South Africa are to join an eight-team competition in Europe later this year rather than play in the Rugby Championship.
World Rugby vice-president Bernard Laporte told French newspaper Le Progres that the Springboks would replace Japan in the European tournament, which has been organised in place of the usual November internationals.
SANZAAR, an alliance between South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Argentina that runs Super Rugby and the international Rugby Championship, said on Monday the report was “pure speculation”.
New Zealand Rugby said last month SANZAAR were keen on hosting the Rugby Championship in a ‘hub’ scenario, probably in New Zealand, and for it to run from early November to mid-December.
European rugby officials organised an eight-team tournament, involving the Six Nations countries plus Fiji and Japan, for the same time, although Japan’s Kyodo news reported at the weekend the Brave Blossoms had withdrawn.
Meanwhile, SANZAAR boss Andy Marinos has admitted Super Rugby lost its way when it expanded into complicated conference systems as the chances of the competition returning next year continue to grow increasingly slim.
Super Rugby was to revert to a 14-team round-robin format in 2021, only for the coronavirus pandemic to firstly for the cancellation of this year’s tournament after just seven rounds but also then see each of SANZAAR’s member nations take matters into their own hands.
New Zealand Rugby was first to establish its own Super Rugby Aotearoa – won by the Crusaders – while Rugby Australia followed suit by creating Super Rugby AU, which is approaching its final regular season round this weekend.
The two nations may yet create a trans-Tasman competition either next year or beyond, while reports out of South Africa over the weekend suggest SA Rugby might finally be poised to announce that their four Super Rugby teams would join link up with the PRO14.
Whatever transpires across the southern hemisphere’s top rugby nations in the next few months and beyond, it seems time has finally caught up with Super Rugby.
And SANZAAR is at last conceding that fact, too.
“First of all, it does remain a critical element of the player development and high-performance pathways, and it is inextricably linked to the success of the national teams,” Marinos told stuff.co.nz.
“But I guess my view on this is that I think over time we have tended to try and make Super Rugby the solution for domestic rugby in our markets, as opposed as to what it was initially set out to be.
“That was to provide a blockbuster top-end, very quick, short and impactful competition structure, that complemented the domestic structure in each of the countries, not took over the domestic structures.”
The uncertainty around international travel and continued closures of borders means Super Rugby certainly looks untenable for 2021. Both New Zealand and Australia have already confirmed they would be willing to run their respective domestic competition, perhaps with some tweaks, again next year.
“[A lot] of the permutations are going to be driven by what border controls are in place,” Marinos said.
“If border movement is less restricted and we are able to open up, it does provide a lot more opportunity.
“…[but] we are getting very strong indications that borders are not going to be open, or as freely accessible, in the first quarter of next year.”