Sanzar closes ugly chapter

South African rugby bosses admit the relationship between the Sanzar partners has taken strain despite an agreement being reached that saves Super Rugby.

The Sanzar alliance agreed to an expanded Super 15 competition, starting from 2011. This follows months of heated discussion about various issues relating to the tournament.

South Africa reportedly proposed that the tournament starts in mid-February, takes a three week break in June for the Tri-Nations and continues thereafter. Australia favoured a March kick-off and the continuation of the tournament throughout the Tri-Nations with Tests played on Wednesdays.

The Currie Cup would also be devalued if the Super 15 runs later in the year, something that Saru said was non-negotiable.

The details of the format are set to be announced next week, but it is likely that South Africa will get their favoured schedule. It has, however been reported widely that Australia are likely to be awarded the new franchise, which will be based in Melbourne.

This would mean for the sixth South African franchise, the Southern Kings, to participate, one of the five currently participating in the Super 14 would have to be relegated at the end of the 2010 tournament.

There was tangible tension between the Sanzar partners in the build up to the announcement, with Australian Rugby Union MD John O’Neill vocal in his belief that South Africa were being inflexible in the negotiation process.

SA Rugby acting MD Andy Marinos said he was glad that the matter has been settled, and said he looked forward to continuing a good working relationship with their Sanzar partners. He did, however, concede that the relationship had taken strain.

‘It’s normal for a relationship to take strain in any negotiation process where parties have specific goals and ideals they want to achieve, and this one’s no different,’ Marinos told keo.co.za.

‘The important thing now is that we are committed to making this partnership work for the good of the game. We have no lingering issues with Australia or New Zealand. That chapter is closed.’

Saru president Hoskins echoed Marinos’s sentiments.

‘It had the potential to be a very difficult situation for all parties, but thankfully we’ve come to an agreement we think is fair to everyone,’ Hoskins said. ‘I’m happy with that agreement and optimistic about the future of Super Rugby.’

Prior to a consensus being reached Marinos intimated that the South African franchises had the option of aligning themselves with other interested countries. He confirmed that there were other options but was reluctant to discuss what those were.

‘It wasn’t some pie-in-the-sky concept. We had very good options on the table, but to discuss those now is futile in light of the decision to continue in Super Rugby,’ he said.

By Ryan Vrede