Canes coach backs South Africans

Hurricanes coach Colin Cooper has launched a plea for South African teams to remain in Super Rugby.

Cooper believes any Australasian-based competition would be a step backwards and South Africa’s continued participation has to be ensured.

His strong stance comes on the eve of further talks between the three Sanzar partners in Dublin on what direction Super rugby takes beyond 2010.

Australian and New Zealand officials have openly discussed the prospect of creating a 10- or 12-team Asian-Pacific competition without South Africa if an agreement can’t be reached before the June 30 deadline when broadcasters are given a fresh option to consider.

The main stumbling blocks are the starting date of the extended competition with South Africa wanting the early start in February to be maintained so the Currie Cup later in the year is unaffected.

Cooper’s view was unequivocal when asked if a competition without South Africa would be an inferior product.

‘Definitely,’ said Cooper. ‘I don’t know the world rankings but I’m sure they’re in the top three, along with New Zealand and Australia.’

‘If you take one of them out, it weakens the competition. At the moment it’s the toughest provincial competition in the world.’

Cooper has voiced his concern this year about the amount of travel involved in the Super 14 and supports the proposed conference structure which would see an extra team added to a likely Super 15.

‘The sooner we sort out the competition, we bring another team in and get conferences then the travel factor won’t be such a tough area like it is at the moment.’