The Kings and the Cheetahs spell trouble for Australian rugby

Marcus McErlean Roar Rookie

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    It’s official: the ex-South African Super Rugby teams, the Kings and the Cheetahs, have been included in the expanded Pro14 in Europe as announced on 1 August 2017.

    In this author’s previous article, ‘Australia must go back to the future to save rugby union‘, the major concern was that Australian rugby may one day wake up to the news that Super Rugby has ceased to exist with no domestic competition of which to speak.

    Although it may be wrong to believe Australian rugby does not have a plan for the end of Super Rugby – maybe that is why the National Rugby Championship was born in 2014. And with the addition of a Fijian team to that championship this year, Australian rugby may be finally going back to the future to discover the answers to its woes.

    But Super Rugby in South Africa and Super Rugby as a whole has a problem.

    With the Kings and Cheetahs joining the Pro14, it is difficult to see how the standard of South African Super Rugby teams and those of the entire competition will improve.

    The whole point of reducing the number of South African teams was to increase the standard of the remaining four teams. Likewise reducing the number of Australian teams from five to four was to foster stronger teams.

    Clearly this will not occur in South Africa, as the Cheetahs and Kings will retain their squads for the Pro14 and the remaining four teams will not benefit in any way given the Super Rugby and Pro14 seasons overlap. The best players from the Kings and Cheetahs will simply not be available for the other four franchises.

    It appears South African rugby is not taking Super Rugby seriously.

    If that is the case, it is paramount that Australian rugby jumps before it has no choice and starts a 12-team, 22-round domestic competition and in the process no longer be treated with contempt by other national unions.

    The National Rugby Championship is definitely a launching pad for this domestic competition. The administrators could even consider basing teams in Adelaide, Hobart and Darwin to put rugby union on the map in these towns.

    But the migration of the Kings and Cheetahs spells the beginning of the end for Super Rugby – South African teams will become the easy-beats of the competition next year – but in particular the standard of South African rugby.

    Winter is here and Australian rugby must be king of its own castle.

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