In one of my posts I suggested an unofficial “fourth conference” to be added to Super Rugby as an option to accommodate the Lions, and any non-participating South African franchise, for the next three years and the more I think about it the more I like the idea.
It is well-known that the Aussies and the Kiwis hope to expand Super Rugby to the Pacific Islands, Japan and the Americas, both North and South. The motivation for this is not only historical in the Pacific Islands’ case but also financial and developmental.
When Super Rugby originally started teams from Australia, New Zealand competed together with a Fijian team but when South Africa joined in 1993 it became the Super 10 and the Fijian team fell by the wayside.
While there’s probably not a lot of money in it to include the Pacific Islands the Aussies and Kiwis have a Big Brother obligation as many of their domestic and international players have ties to those countries.
Including Japan would be more financial as there seem to be a lot of money available for rugby while the development of rugby in the Americas could financially lucrative.
With South Africa now having six franchises but only five spots in Super Rugby it means that, for the next three years at least, one franchise will sit on in the stands every year all dressed up and nowhere to go.
Consider therefore enlisting SANZAR’s help and create an informal/unofficial “fourth conference” made up of five to eight teams from the Pacific Islands, Asia (Japan), South America (Argetina), North America (USA and Canada) as well as South Africa’s sixth franchise.
While the composition of some of these teams may be hampered by player, club and international commitments, especially in year one, a suitable round robin schedule would provide teams with competition and prepare them for eventual inclusion into Super Rugby as either a fourth conference or as a second tier.
At the same time South Africa’s sixth franchise will continue to get game time during the otherwise lean Super Rugby season.
I can hear some people saying that the quality of these teams will not be of a suitable standard but the fact is that the sixth franchise will not get quality competition anywhere else. All the major Southern and Northern Hemisphere rugby countries’ players are involved in competitions through most of the Super Rugby season – Six Nations, Super Rugby, Heineken Cup, Top 14, etc. – so these countries do not have teams and players available.
So why not use the current situation, with the help of SANZAR, to start developing the next step of Super Rugby.