Mark Keohane, writing for IOL, says that Super Rugby’s 2020 season must take preference to the Springboks’ July internationals.
National takes priority every four years in world rugby. South African rugby is no different to any other nation in a World Cup year. Concessions are made and everything national takes precedence to ensure the Springboks are primed for the World Cup.
Global rugby calendars adjust their season to accommodate the World Cup. In the southern hemisphere, World Cup squad members have limited time in Super Rugby and the Rugby Championship’s fixtures are halved.
Now is the time for national to take a back seat and in 2020 willingly accept the needs of national are secondary to those Super Rugby franchise requirements.
The Coronavirus is uncharted territory for everyone on this planet. Businesses, sports, entertainment, governments … you name it … everyone is scrambling for a solution to a situation that has never before been encountered.
The world is currently in lockdown and sport, within the world’s day to day operation, is similarly in lockdown.
SuperRugby bosses are working every possible solution to save the 2020 season. They are working with the unknown of just how long the Coronavirus will keep people at a distance and limit any formalized sporting, cultural or public events. They are working in the hope that by May there is clarity and that by June the sporting season can resume.
Should this be the case, then the Springboks’ three-Test July obligation against Scotland (twice) and Georgia must be canned to reintroduce Super Rugby, even if it is a shortened version of the original 2020 schedule.
The Rugby Championship, scheduled for August and September, can also be limited to one round of fixtures, as was the case in 2019’s World Cup year. All other rugby competitions in the southern hemisphere, must be sacrificed to ensure Super Rugby gets a fair crack at completion in 2020.
This is all assuming that sport is at some stage allowed again in 2020.
SuperRugby is the financial lifeline to rugby in the southern hemisphere. The core of the players earn their living through SuperRugby and not through international Test rugby.
New Zealand’s rugby bosses are exploring the option of a New Zealand domestic Super Rugby franchise competition over the next few months, which would determine an on-field New Zealand champion. Australia are doing a similar thing and by all accounts, so will South Africa.
This format limits international travelling.
Super Rugby’s current play-off structure ensures one representative from New Zealand, Australia and South Africa as the top three teams by way of being conference winners. Places four to eight then play-off in a quarter-final.
I’d propose New Zealand, South Africa and Australia’s domestic champion and last season’s beaten finalists, the Jaguares (from Argentina) get a wild card entry into a semi-final.
If international travel has been resumed, then the Jaguares travel away from home and play the team that has the most league points. Teams two and three play out the other semi-final.
I’d much prefer the idea of the Crusaders play the Sharks in a semi-final in July than watching the Springboks play Georgia. If there is to be rugby life after the Coronavirus, then in the southern hemisphere it has to be Super Rugby before any Test rugby.