Former Wallabies captain Phil Kearns has challenged the ARU to show some gumption and demand SANZAAR retain all five Australian teams in Super Rugby.
As the saga continues over who’s in and who’s out for 2018, Kearns believes it’s high time the ARU made a stand and stood up to the competition’s rulers reportedly lobbying to have one Australian team and two South African sides chopped.
The Western Force are the latest Australian franchise in the firing line but not only is Kearns advocating their survival, but also urging the ARU to insist no Aussie outfit is cut.
Kearns agrees with fellow former Wallabies captain Stirling Mortlock and All Blacks great Andrew Mehrtens that Super Rugby would be better off with a trans-Tasman competition and then possibly a Super Bowl-style final against the best from South Africa and Argentina.
“If Australia called their (SANZAAR’s) bluff, so let’s say South Africa and New Zealand go off and play in your own tournament, let’s see how quickly they get tired of that – going over the top of Australia back and forth the whole time,” Kearns told Fox Sports’ Super Rugby program.
“And the fact is, the crowds are down and audiences are down on TV when a South African team plays.
“We don’t get up at two o’clock in the morning to watch that.
“Our game needs some big cojones right now.”
Like Mehrtens – who believes removing the Force would be a blow also to New Zealand rugby – Kearns is adamant the Perth club must stay.
“They’re starting to play some decent footy to start with. They’re starting to put some good games, good performances, good tries together,” he said.
“They’re not playing the full 80 minutes yet but that will come with maturity.
‘The second thing that I really like about what they’ve done is they are picking some home-grown talent.
“We know that Queensland and NSW is where most of the talent comes from. The Force are starting to produce some of their own as well and it’s a real positive for the game.
Former Force star Cameron Shepherd has also made an impassioned plea for the 12-year-old franchise to be given a chance to grow old in Super Rugby.
“Frankly I’m pretty upset about it,” Shepherd said.
“The Force has battled through a really tough 12 years; the Firepower debacle at the start, losing a lot of key players and a huge amount of them have toiled away to keep the team running, keep the organisation running and get them to where they are today, where the culture’s fantastic.
“They’re producing some great players.
“Dane Haylett-Petty is a perfect example of one, and Richie Hardwick, and this needs to continue so the future generations – and there’s a lot of them coming though – aren’t roadblocked and not given the opportunity to reach their rugby dreams.”