Boks going nowhere soon
16 Aug 2010
MARK KEOHANE writes that the Springboks will never split from Sanzar.
Every second year, when the moans start and the groans become louder and South African rugby’s administrators insecurities are at their most obvious, one of the emotionally vulnerable suits at the South African Rugby Union tells a media mate that South Africa is looking at alternatives to the Sanzar alliance with Australia and New Zealand.
New Zealand and Australia then react, there is a conference call and a statement is then drafted with all three nations telling each other just how important one is to the other, how good each is and how Super Rugby and Tri-Nations are the best rugby competitions in the world.
The Tri-Nations will become the Four Nations (unless someone clever comes up with a tournament name) and Super 14 is Super 15 as of 2011.
Leaving Sanzar is not as easy as it seems. I know because I was among a study group that did a heck of a lot of research into the possibility a couple of years ago. The lack of a global season is the first stumbling block and the Northern Hemisphere would only accommodate South Africa if all the compromise was made by South Africa, whose provincial unions aren’t prepared to change their season to play in the north.
Plans were at an advanced stage a couple of years ago to put together a tournament that would kill off Super rugby, with the top clubs from England, France and South Africa the alternative to Super Rugby. New Zealand and Australia would then play their own competition. The idea never left the boardroom as the Celtic nations insisted on loyalty from the French and English to the concept of the European Cup and, in the case of the latter, other tournaments.
And so it went, at provincial, regional and national level.
The broadcast market in the UK is already saturated with all the other sporting events. South Africa’s administrators live in a dream world when they should be appreciating the dream world that is the Sanzar alliance. Where it always gets complicated, and it is always South Africa threatening to leave, is because we have administrators so decidedly inferior to the New Zealanders and Australians.
Our boys get steamrolled in negotiations and Australian CEO John O’Neill would have a tougher time clubbing a baby seal than he would getting his way in round table talks that add to the strength of Sanzar, even if it comes at the expense of South Africa.
When Saru board member Jan Marais told a journalist that the administration had requested a task team to explore possibilities of alternatives, there was a qualifier. He said that it was an obvious exercise to do a couple of years out from any further broadcast negotiations. Saru president Regan Hoskins added the Sanzar alliance was strong, but that debate would always be robust and because this ‘robust debate’ had been made public did not mean there was any ill-feeling.
Questions have subsequently been asked in Australia and New Zealand as to which way South Africa will jump? There is nowhere to go. South Africa is entrenched in Sanzar and the only reason perception is so strong that South Africa is prejudiced is because of South Africa’s weak leadership and lack of presence at the table.
Stronger administration, with an emphasis on substance and not paranoia, would immediately redress any power imbalance. Quality individuals lead to quality leadership.
Then there’s the broadcast deal. The broadcasters determine the strength of the alliance, and not one of South Africa, Australia or New Zealand is stronger on its own. The one needs the other two to strengthen any broadcast deal.
I have always wanted South Africa to play in the north. There is a time difference of an hour to two, an overnight flight is as hectic as it gets in travel demands and there would be so much more variety playing in Europe than against the same old from Australia and New Zealand.
In theory a move makes so much sense, but practically it is impossible to structure.
In the meantime let’s hope South Africa’s administration gets a stronger because that will at least ensure less of a whipping at the boardroom table, which is all this really is about … South Africa’s pathetic admin boys asking for the bullying to stop and threatening to take the ball home if the Kiwis and Aussies don’t stop calling them ugly names and taking their milk money.