South African Rugby Union (Saru) deputy president Mark Alexander says the national rugby body will lobby for 16 teams to be introduced into Super Rugby.
This follows Saru’s decision on Friday to include the Southern Kings in Super Rugby in 2013 which in essence leaves the current five unions in the dark about their participation in next year’s competition.
The other South African teams in the competition, Saru said, would be confirmed only after proposals from provinces were considered at their annual general meeting in March.
Alexander said — at the announcement of CIB Insurance Administrators as new associate sponsors to the Vodacom Super Rugby competition on Tuesday — that they would be pushing for a sixth South African team in Super Rugby.
“We’ve got the five franchises looking at the model, but first prize we are still lobbying our partners, we want to get a sixth franchise in, we believe it will be good for rugby and we don’t want to see anybody go down,” Alexander said.
“The last thing we want to do is to make a choice to push one of the franchises out.”
Saru, however, have a challenge on their hands as the current broadcast deal, which allows for 15 teams in the competition according to the conference system — will only be renegotiated in 2016.
Alexander was positive that Saru would be able to lobby its partners at Sanzar with Sport Minister Fikile Mbalula’s backing.
“There is a window of opportunity with our partners, we are currently preparing a 16 team schedule so that we can go and debate with them,” he said.
“I think our relationship with Sanzar has improved tremendously, we are very close to our partners in Australia and we work very closely with New Zealand and our relationship has changed.
“I think there is a window of opportunity provided we sell a workable solution about 16 franchises playing in the competition.”
Alexander said Saru was well aware of what the consequences would be if one of the current South African teams had to make way for the Kings.
“We understand if one drops out it is very difficult to come back and compete again the following year, it makes it almost impossible,” Alexander said.
He said extending the competition to 16 teams would simplify the format. “That would give you 15 games in a round robin stage, one plays four, two plays three in a final and that would reduce the number we currently play,” he said. — Sapa