Politics, not love, steers our beloved game

Colin Kennedy Roar Guru

By Colin Kennedy, Colin Kennedy is a Roar Guru

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    Bryan Habana played the last time the All Blacks went down in New Zealand. (AAP Image/NZN IMAGE, SNPA, David Rowland)

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    The South African Rugby Union (SARU) has poured cold water – in emphatic fashion – on recent speculation that the Super Rugby will be divided into an Argentinian/African conference and an Australasian conference when contracts are renegotiated.

    Elements of the South African and New Zealand media are suggesting the SARU has effectively issued a Super Rugby taunt to its SANZAR partners, but really it seems that it’s down to a few sub-editors scraping the bottom of the barrel in terms of sensationalism.

    Headlines included:

    * Six teams or nothing in Super Rugby – Hoskins
    * Saru give Sanzar a Super Rugby ultimatum
    * South Africa demand six Super Rugby teams from 2016
    * SARU issue Super Rugby taunt

    SARU president Oregan Hoskins did go so far as to say that there would be absolutely no compromise on including a sixth South African team in the Super competition when the television contracts come up for renewal.

    “As far as I am concerned, it is not even an issue for us, it is six or nothing when the new broadcast deal comes into effect,” he is reported to have said at an Ellis Park function hosting the Webb Ellis Cup as it makes its way back to the International Rugby Board (IRB) headquarters in Dublin, Ireland.

    In essence, Hoskins is answering to his political masters. They want the Kings in the competition because of what the franchise can do for developing the black South African player base in the Eastern Cape, which is substantial.

    Some of what Hoskins said might be construed as fighting talk.

    “We have to do everything it takes to ensure our teams play in whatever competition – if it is not Sanzar, then we have to look north. So I am hoping that we are being accommodated within Sanzar. We are being told that we are being accommodated.”

    The interesting bit however was a clear statement from Hoskins that SANZAR has not yet worked out a solution. Does that suggest the three unions are currently at a stalemate?

    Reading between the lines on some of the reports, there is a desire for Argentina to participate, but that participation may be a hybrid team comprising Argentinian and Australian players.

    Hoskins said he liked the idea of 18 teams: six each from New Zealand and South Africa and five from Australia, and perhaps an Argentine team or a team that came together from “putting our heads together and working something out”.

    Good news for rugby fans, however, is that SARU would not settle for an Australasian and African/Argentine conference model.

    “I can’t see the idea of having a Australasian conference and an African conference,” Hoskins said.

    “South Africa is the partner and the brand which is the biggest in the Southern Hemisphere in terms of commercial value, brand value, bums on seats, television viewership, the number of players we have, etcetera.”

    What can we take from this?

    Firstly, that the quality of the competition will not be compromised by a two-conference model – good news for everybody.

    And secondly, Australia (we hope) is going to be forced to develop its own domestic competition instead of relying on an Australasian conference Band-Aid – good news for Australia in the long run.

    Negotiations, it seems, have a way to go.

    South Africa, however, may be in a stronger bargaining position than in previous years for a couple of reasons:

    1. New Zealand Rugby wants to play South African teams as a means of blooding future talent, and hence are unlikely to support Australia’s push for an exclusive Australasian conference
    2. The break-up of the European competition offers some leverage to South Africa, if nothing else
    3. South Africa, having backed the re-election of IRB President Bernard Lapasset in the December 2011 vote (when both the ARU and New Zealand Rugby Union voted for England’s Bill Beaumont) can possibly rely on the support of the IRB.

    Oregan Hoskins is also vice-chairman of the IRB.

    If anything, relying on IRB politics (as I’ve described it) is possibly clutching at straws at best. A report by Spiro Zavos on The Roar in 2011 maintains that the ARU never supported Beaumont, despite media reports that he did.

    My ultimate point, however, is that politics in sports isn’t just a South African reality.

    Politics – national, international and within the game itself – plays a massive part in shaping the future of the sport.

    Egos, personalities, personal agendas, national interests, big salaries, perks… all of these are advanced before the good of the game itself.

    So if you’re expecting solutions ‘for the good of the game of rugby union’ in the near future, don’t hold your breath.

    Have Your Say



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    The Crowd Says (81)

    • October 31st 2013 @ 4:28am
      Johnno said | October 31st 2013 @ 4:28am | ! Report

      A few realities

      -It looks unlikely Argentina will get a team. And bravo for that. And as for the other rubbish of US/Canada haveing teams, i noticed when push comes to shove SANZAR doesn’t talk up that old hyperbole anymore. They realize what a logistical nightmare potentially expanding super rugby into Argentina would be, and don’t have the capability to do it either, no one does.

      -As for this Australia are not good enough have a 6th team, what a myth. Allow unlimited foriegn imports for the 6th team, so much rugby talent int he world that would want a chance. But it seems Australian rugby would rather have no 6th rugby team, than a team of unlimited foriegn imports. I want rugby no 1, and i would happily support a team of unlimited foriegn imports. Or 90’% foreigin imports. Fans of english soccer english people love the EPL being full of foriegners and don’t bemoan all the foreigners in the EPL, all the Man United fans pack Old trafford out, a team full of foreign imports so clearly Man United fans love all the unlimited foreign imports int he EPL as they keep watching it and going to games.
      -So Australian rugby can field a 6th super rugby team we just have to allow unlimited foreign imports, which is what I want. As I just want to see the best players and want to see rugby.

      -6 teams in each country is viable, forget Argentina, they should never of come in the rugby championship anyway. They have no pro or semi-pro domestic comps. At least Australian rugby has a semi-pro comp the shute shield.
      Wales now look likely to support the re-vamp of euro rugby, and the other celtic nations will probably go along with it. Maybe they might get an offer in the celtic nations, or by new rugby markets in Georgia, Russia,Ukraine,Romania. those club teams are getting good. Maybe they might join cletic nations and Italy who knows.
      But timezone wise, and Broadcaster wise,and travel distance Europe is better than Australia/NZ. Argentina can’t sustain 6 teams, so South africa can’t have a comp with them. Or maybe they might form a domestic 8 team comp and go from there, and play in the RC if it still exists.
      Japan playing AB’S this weekend. It would not surprise me if japan join the RC in 2016.

      • October 31st 2013 @ 12:28pm
        Squirrel said | October 31st 2013 @ 12:28pm | ! Report

        Its not soccer and players want to support local players not baa baa teams. Australia cant for the good of Aussie game have a 6th team. It is ridiculous suggestion. SA and NZ yes.

      • October 31st 2013 @ 4:10pm
        2ndRowLegal said | October 31st 2013 @ 4:10pm | ! Report

        I love the idea of a “Grand Pacific” Team: The 30 or so best and brightest from all the countries in or around the Pacific Ocean – Fiji, Samoa, Japan, USA, Canada, Russia – there’s a lot to choose from. Base them on the Gold Coast as part of the Aussie conference. I see lots of advantages.

    • Roar Guru

      October 31st 2013 @ 4:38am
      biltongbek said | October 31st 2013 @ 4:38am | ! Report

      Joining the North is totally impractical.

      1. Different season.
      2. Fragmented scheduling between HC, local Cup competitions and Six Nations.
      3. Not really that much closer.
      4. And I am just not interested in watching us play there.

      • October 31st 2013 @ 7:10am
        hog said | October 31st 2013 @ 7:10am | ! Report

        We can only hope for the future of Rugby in Australia that SA pulls out of Super rugby, and then we can finally concentrate on growing the game domestically in Australia.

      • Roar Guru

        October 31st 2013 @ 12:40pm
        Colin Kennedy said | October 31st 2013 @ 12:40pm | ! Report

        Agree with both of you (Johnno and BB) that Europe is just not practical, good for a bit of posturing and a bit of leverage perhaps, but most people can see through it pretty quickly – unless South Africa sent one team to Europe maybe, possibly…

        What I do not want is an African / Argentine conference versus an Australasian one. I would stop watching rugby, but my worry is that it’s not the good of the game that’s the priority, but the politics that decides things (although logistics temper political aspirations somewhat)

      • October 31st 2013 @ 4:42pm
        Markus said | October 31st 2013 @ 4:42pm | ! Report

        5. Apart from a brief mention about joining the Magners League a couple of years ago, I haven’t really seen any indication that the NH actually wants to incorporate South African clubs into the competition. They seem more than content with just buying up all the players.

        • Roar Guru

          October 31st 2013 @ 4:47pm
          biltongbek said | October 31st 2013 @ 4:47pm | ! Report

          Exactly.

          Why would the Top 14 Clubs want SA to join their competitions which inevitably would mean more money for us, that would only reduce their options in their feeding ground.

      • October 31st 2013 @ 9:21pm
        Gpc said | October 31st 2013 @ 9:21pm | ! Report

        Same time zone. Think of the rating!

    • October 31st 2013 @ 4:57am
      John said | October 31st 2013 @ 4:57am | ! Report

      This would be practical;

      6 SA teams
      5 NZ teams
      4 Aus teams

      Not sure what an 18 team tourney would like, but I would be stunned – absolutely stunned – if the ARU pushed for 6 teams. If they want 18 then it could be 6 / 6 / 5 / 1 (SA / NZ / Aus / Arg) or what about 7 / 6 / 5 (SA / NZ / Aus). If the ARU cannot makre a profit as it is why would push for a sixth loss-making franchise?

      We don’t have to like it, but SA has a point. They have more players, more fans, and more money. New Zealand has the better players and teams (personal view, no doubt BB and others will disagree) or put differently a Super tourney without a stron NZ presence is meaningless. Since NZ wants SA in then SA will be in.

      It may be that the only thing in the way of a deal is Pulver’s pride.

      • October 31st 2013 @ 4:46pm
        watapitywereoutapaper said | October 31st 2013 @ 4:46pm | ! Report

        I’m not across this thing but I think if you have different number of teams in each conference then it will cause timing issues before play-off time. There would have to be more bye weeks in the smaller conferences, and less games = less revenue. I suppose adding an Argentine team to the Australian conference might work, but it would be an expensive exercise to implant an Argentine team in Australia. You’d have to pour money into building a franchise which has no natural homeground or base of supporters. I think a mixed team would be the way forward (say, with a number of aussies but also the ability to pick a large number of argentines and a certain number of other foreign based players). I like the idea of bringing more island talent into the conference which would, come test season, hopefully strengthen their already improving national sides.

        • October 31st 2013 @ 10:08pm
          Theron K Cal said | October 31st 2013 @ 10:08pm | ! Report

          ^Revert back to round robin.

    • October 31st 2013 @ 5:16am
      DR said | October 31st 2013 @ 5:16am | ! Report

      Thought provoking Colin thank you.

      Can I ask what the underlying feeling is in SA? What would be the preference moving forward amongst the fans?

      • Roar Guru

        October 31st 2013 @ 5:22am
        biltongbek said | October 31st 2013 @ 5:22am | ! Report

        There are quite a number of SA fans that have fallen out of love with Super Rugby, but yet it is still supported very well.

        • October 31st 2013 @ 10:22am
          DR said | October 31st 2013 @ 10:22am | ! Report

          Yes but is the preference to look north, stay in Super or focus internally?

          • Roar Guru

            October 31st 2013 @ 4:40pm
            biltongbek said | October 31st 2013 @ 4:40pm | ! Report

            I think it is quite mixed, from what I have seen. difficult to say whether there is a preference.

            • October 31st 2013 @ 6:39pm
              DR said | October 31st 2013 @ 6:39pm | ! Report

              Then I would suggest their is still hope to return the super to rugby.

              Introduce SA 6th team
              Scrap home and away derbies
              Top four playoff

              Simple really. The current format needs to be addressed as it detracts from the tournament in my view.

              I wouldn’t mind seeing exchange programmes between franchises or even trades to be honest. I think that would add a lot of interest and attraction to the competition. ( as long as that did not translate into international selection 😉

              • Roar Guru

                October 31st 2013 @ 6:52pm
                biltongbek said | October 31st 2013 @ 6:52pm | ! Report

                Well, one option is like you say, have 16 teams, play everyone once and complete in 17 weeks (two bye weeks, then have semi finals between the top four teams.

                Problem is, the administrators are pro derbies.

                As for an exchange program, not sure I like it. I like the fact that it is SA vs OZ vs NZ, it is about bragging rights.

                I look for two things during the super rugby competition:
                1. who wins – provides us with the best team in the southern hemisphere
                2. Our overall performance of each team vs NZ and OZ. – provides sense of depth of talent.

              • October 31st 2013 @ 7:18pm
                DR said | October 31st 2013 @ 7:18pm | ! Report

                I don’t like administrators 😉

                While i understand what you are saying i see the internationals as the opportunity for country vs country and bragging rights.

                In terms of the franchise system currently, NZ teams are already spread with talent from outside their regions so it is already happening in many ways and we have already seen several signings in Australia as it is. My way of thinking is to see it done in a controlled fashion. It would benefit the individual players as well and strengthen teams across the board in many ways. Yes, one could find negatives if they so choose but in my way i try to think of positives. 😉

                Many players would benefit from playing under different coaches, conditions and styles. I honestly see it as a good thing and in no way hinders the development of young talent and can in fact help as it is trading rather than replacing.

                An example perhaps in Bird and Du Toit. Each would benefit from a season in the opposing camps. I’m sure you can appreciate where I am coming from even though i am probably not articulating it very well.

                I also like the idea that i am still able to see these players run around in my comp and adds incentive for viewers to watch more games.

                Just an idea i have had rolling around my head. Probably a pipe dream but it all works in my world 😉

              • Roar Guru

                October 31st 2013 @ 7:31pm
                biltongbek said | October 31st 2013 @ 7:31pm | ! Report

                I get what you are saying, I suppose one player per franchise won’t hurt, if only to satisfy your hunger to get Etzebeth to play in NZ. 😉

              • October 31st 2013 @ 7:43pm
                DR said | October 31st 2013 @ 7:43pm | ! Report

                Haha 😉 if he wasn’t playing for the hurricanes i would be pretty peeved!! My lord we are short on locks!! I’d take Du Toit at a stretch 😉

                Still, while there is a lot of negativity around the super comp i will continue to try and find ways to keep and improve it.

              • Roar Guru

                October 31st 2013 @ 7:49pm
                biltongbek said | October 31st 2013 @ 7:49pm | ! Report

                If you want to improve the super rugby comp, you first need to decide why it is there.

                Is it there to sustain our respective unions financially? If that is the case then the more teams the merrier at the cost of the Currie Cup and ITM.

                If it is there as an elite comp, then reduce the number of teams.

              • November 1st 2013 @ 10:37am
                DR said | November 1st 2013 @ 10:37am | ! Report

                For mine it is there to develop professional players capable of playing Test match football.

                Club – Amatuer
                ITM/Currie – Semi-Proffesional
                Super – Professional
                Test – Elite

                That is how i view the competition and its core reason for existing. Yes it needs to be sustainable which is why SA should be allowed the 6th team. Simple as that in my view.

                Fixing the structure of the current competition is where it needs to start.

      • October 31st 2013 @ 9:11pm
        Rambo said | October 31st 2013 @ 9:11pm | ! Report

        I think there is a growing number of fans who would prefer to head North. Superrugby is viewed as stale and boring with an format that favors some teams above others. Also there is a bit of a us vs them feeling between the ANZACs and SA, with the inconsistent siting commissions, refereeing, “Get the Jaapies”, etc. Also with so many SA players playing up north already, and the Springboks now selecting Northern based players, I think there is a real appetite to head that way. However, the SA administration will want to also keep regular tests against the ABs, I am not sure if they can have both?

    • Roar Guru

      October 31st 2013 @ 5:20am
      biltongbek said | October 31st 2013 @ 5:20am | ! Report

      I don’t think it matters whether a country can put out 4, 5, or six strong teams, it is inevitable that due to the past 15 years of Super Rugby that the top players have migrated to the top three or so Franchises in each country.

      The fact is whichever competition we enter internatinally SARU wants 6 teams, if two of them are weak, well then that is it.

      Besides Super Rugby is no longer “Super” anyway, if you want to put the Super back, then reduce the teams.

      • October 31st 2013 @ 5:38am
        Johnno said | October 31st 2013 @ 5:38am | ! Report

        BB fix the weak south african teams like the kings, flood em at the expense of average locals with foreign imports problem solved. i mean who would you rather a foreign import like SBW or Ma Nonu or giving a local a go like Waylan murray who is average, or Earl Rose.

        • Roar Guru

          October 31st 2013 @ 5:42am
          biltongbek said | October 31st 2013 @ 5:42am | ! Report

        • Roar Guru

          October 31st 2013 @ 5:42am
          biltongbek said | October 31st 2013 @ 5:42am | ! Report

          Johnno, they will develop in their own time, I see no need whatsoever for us to have imports.

          We have exported more than 200 players, what makes you think we can’t fill six teams in good time.

          • October 31st 2013 @ 5:47am
            Johnno said | October 31st 2013 @ 5:47am | ! Report

            So Biltongbeck would you in a super rugby game rather watch Waylan Murray in your local team than SBW.

            • Roar Guru

              October 31st 2013 @ 5:52am
              biltongbek said | October 31st 2013 @ 5:52am | ! Report

              Yes. It is a South African team, supposed to be representing and developing South African players, SBW can play for a NZ franchise.

            • October 31st 2013 @ 3:19pm
              TREX said | October 31st 2013 @ 3:19pm | ! Report

              Most rugby fans will want SBW in their side and that includes the SA fans. Open up the the bloody competition and let all franchises signed players from all over the world and have a quotes on how many they can sign.

              • Roar Guru

                October 31st 2013 @ 4:41pm
                biltongbek said | October 31st 2013 @ 4:41pm | ! Report

                Why?

                Super Rugby is supposed to be for OZ, NZ and SA, it is what keeps our rugby strong. Why would you want the limited opportunities that currently exist reduced?

          • October 31st 2013 @ 5:54am
            Harry Jones said | October 31st 2013 @ 5:54am | ! Report

            BB, howzit.

            We do have the depth (as the 200+ professional rugby players abroad prove), but we don’t have the cash dedicated to the players.

            Rugby generates so much flippin money in SA, but it’s sliced and diced in so many non-player ways, and player welfare is not a priority in SA.

            The French bosses lavish SA players with bounty. SA players in Japan can set up their retirement. Etc. Etc.

            Reforming SARU and the provincial unions–taking a big broom and cleaning them up–so that players can be healthy and wealthy at home, is the answer.

            Until that happens, the Bok diaspora will continue, unabated.

            • Roar Guru

              October 31st 2013 @ 12:37pm
              Colin Kennedy said | October 31st 2013 @ 12:37pm | ! Report

              That’s the crux of it Harry. The South African rand is too weak.

              • Roar Guru

                October 31st 2013 @ 4:45pm
                biltongbek said | October 31st 2013 @ 4:45pm | ! Report

                Colin, our currency is too weka to retain top players, if SARU did things better and we could pay more players a professional salary our journeymen won’t need to leave.

                It is true we can’t pay Bryan Habana R6 million and every other top star.

                But you also need to see things in context. If you average journeyman earns R1 million in SA, compared to the cost of living elsewhere he can make a very good living indeed in SA.

                The problem is not our stars leaving, that is inevitable as we cannot compete in the higher end of the market.

                However the middle market is our budget, and that is what super rugby must ultimately achieve. Pump as many professional players into our system.

              • Roar Guru

                October 31st 2013 @ 5:49pm
                Colin Kennedy said | October 31st 2013 @ 5:49pm | ! Report

                BB I saw salaries that suggested that Bakkies, for example, is on 35,000 pounds a year. In a global context, if its accurate, that’s not very much money. I wonder what other perks they get?

              • Roar Guru

                October 31st 2013 @ 6:03pm
                biltongbek said | October 31st 2013 @ 6:03pm | ! Report

                Colin, that is a very good question.

                I know the guy who is the Golden Lions’ U21 manager. Know it is rather difficult to get straight answer from him, but he once explained to me that the Lions have a two tier pay system for their Currie Cup players.

                Senior Currie Cup players earn minimum R 600 000 per year (once you reach 50 caps) and Junior Currie Cup players earn around R 400 000 per year.

                You have to consider that Super rugby players must at least be earning R1 000 000 per year, if not a bit more.

                Anyone in SA earning that kind of income lives in a secure golf Estate or something similar and has a high quality standard of living.

                Most professional rugby players have businesses on the side which they eventually fall back on when they retire.

                I think the figure you have is per month, not per year. Which would put him in the category of around R4 500 000 per year, obviously depending on exchange rates.

                But that is the exception, not many south Africans earn that kind of money. If you consider the Salary Caps of the teams over there, and the squad sizes I wonder whether good rugby players earn more than R 2 500 000 or more per year.

                However what is the cost of living over there?

                I have no idea, but watching some programs a small flat can cost you R30 000 per month to rent.

                I believe it has more to do with lost opportunities in SA, than just simply ascribing it to bigger salaries.

    • October 31st 2013 @ 6:59am
      John said | October 31st 2013 @ 6:59am | ! Report

      I just looked at the ARU 2012 financials on the aru.com.au website. I’ve wondered for a while but never bothered before.

      Basically, the ARU earned $110m but spent $110m, for a loss of just under $10m. This is a slight improvement on 2011. Key items;

      * Player salaries of around $15,000,000. I wonder if the NZRU lists player salaries in their report and what they are – it would be a fascinating comparison.
      * They gave the QRU and the NSWRU over $1m each, while the other franchises got much much less
      * John O’Neill’s salary was $1.2m and incentives was $850,000, but i cannot tell if the incentive is part of the salary. i would expect not but I’m trying to give him the benefit of the doubt.

      Can’t wait to see what the Lions year looks like, and to compare the Pulver salary to that of JON.

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