Sun, 05 Jul 2020

Mass SA shift toward PRO14? Why I'm lukewarm

News24
02 Jun 2020, 04:12 GMT+10

The lengthy dormancy of Super Rugby this year, caused by the Covid-19 crisis, has only increased the ripples over South Africa's future in the competition - at a time when it is increasingly struggling for the credibility of old anyway.

While the swelling migration of best SA players (Australia is steadily feeling the pinch on that front, too) to lucrative deals on the other side of the equator has had a debilitating impact, I am still convinced in my own mind that Super Rugby's declining lustre has been primarily down to the obscenely regular tinkering - and foolhardy expansions at times in teams taking part - to the structure by Sanzaar.

As I wrote on Sport24 fairly recently, a return to a notably, committedly more slimline Super Rugby - while still including teams from all three juggernaut southern powers - could have a significant revitalising effect.

The considerable snag with PRO14, as I see it, is that it is in many ways only "the best of the rest" in a UK/European context, given that English clubs continue to campaign in the almost certainly still more blue-chip, England-specific Premiership.

Traditionally, remember, England have won the Six Nations title (since its establishment in that format in 2000) more times than anyone else, were the runners-up to the Springboks at the last World Cup in 2019, and are still the only team from the north to have ever hoisted the Webb Ellis Cup, in 2003.

There are some extremely prestigious Irish and Welsh clubs and players, for example, active in the PRO14; don't get me wrong on that.

But without the cream of English (and French) teams, PRO14 is just another tournament, if you like, which can't ever be described as the premier barometer - unlike Super Rugby in the south - of northern-hemisphere bragging rights.

That's my major marketing concern (the Cheetahs and particularly Kings haven't exactly set it alight to this point, either) in the event that the Sharks, Stormers, Bulls and Lions also trek in a completely different direction ...

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