SA Rugby acting managing director Andy Marinos has vowed to find the ‘happy middle’ on the issue of the Super 14 expansion.
South Africa has refused to compromise the Currie Cup in favour of an expanded tournament which Australia and New Zealand have proposed would start in March and run through until August.
A Sanzar working committee meets in South Africa next week to thrash out existing issues, with South Africa likely to get their way – particularly because they contribute 65% to the Sanzar broadcasting deal.
Australia are pushing hard for the expansion and seemingly fail to see the sense in trying to protect a provincial competition, while New Zealand are far more sympathetic to the South African situation.
Marinos told New Zealand’s Radio Sport that there was no way they would consider overlapping Super rugby with the Currie Cup, but wasn’t closed to finding a compromise.
‘The competition length is and will continue be problematic,’ Marinos told Radio Sport. “It’s where South Africa and New Zealand have quite a lot of similarity with our Currie Cup and your NPC. We’ve both got vibrant and high quality domestic competitions.
‘We’ve seen over last the four years how the Currie Cup has gone from strength to strength. We’re trying to fit a Super Rugby competition in and still retain some form of our Currie Cup where all our top players can participate.
‘The Super rugby competition has had huge benefits for all three countries, and that’s why we remain committed to trying to work out a solution to ensure we do have Super rugby.’
Marinos said expansion had ‘inherent risks’ for both South Africa and New Zealand to ‘ensure the integrity and continuation of our domestic competitions’. He added: ‘The happy place is somewhere in the middle where we can continue to have Super rugby and can continue to have that domestic competition which effectively drives the success of any country.’
New Zealand Rugby Union chief executive Steve Tew was understanding of both South Africa and Australia’s position.
‘On one hand of the extreme, you have South Africa who arguably have got enough rugby in their country already, a very strong domestic competition that pays a lot of bills,’ said Tew. ‘On the other, you have Australia who are absolutely desperate for expansion, no domestic competition and are looking for more and more product, for want of a better word.
‘We are trying to negotiate some middle ground and will continue to play that role,’ he said. ‘That’s why our guys are off to South Africa tomorrow morning and that’s why discussions will continue right up to when we go to the broadcasters [in June].’
Marinos scoffed at the suggestion that South Africa was looking to realign itself with European unions, stressing that the Tri-Nations remained a competition his union was committed to.