The Kings and the Cheetahs spell trouble for Australian rugby

Marcus McErlean Roar Rookie

By Marcus McErlean, Marcus McErlean is a Roar Rookie

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57 Have your say

    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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    The Crowd Says (57)

    • August 6th 2017 @ 7:13am
      matt jones said | August 6th 2017 @ 7:13am | ! Report

      possibly the most nonsensical article in Roar history

    • August 6th 2017 @ 8:49am
      Waxhead said | August 6th 2017 @ 8:49am | ! Report

      Don’t agree Marcus
      Way too early to be predicting the demise of the Super Rugby Comp.
      There’s too many other positive developments occurring to dismiss it so easily as you do.

      I do agree with you on the need for an expanded/upgraded NRC in Australia.
      That’s a no regrets option imo and should be done urgently irrespective of the the future of Super Rugby.

    • August 6th 2017 @ 8:49am
      kerryn said | August 6th 2017 @ 8:49am | ! Report

      sanzaar – particularly the nzru – tried to strongarm south african rugby by reducing their teams..cheetahs and kings just said..fugg off, we’re off north..

      • August 6th 2017 @ 1:34pm
        matt jones said | August 6th 2017 @ 1:34pm | ! Report


      • August 6th 2017 @ 1:51pm
        Marcus McErlean said | August 6th 2017 @ 1:51pm | ! Report

        Kerryn, I thought it was a brilliant move by SA rugby. In fact, I thought the Western Force should have considered the move also with the forthcoming introduction of the non-stop Kangaroo route by Qantas from Perth to London.

        • August 7th 2017 @ 9:03pm
          Notsobrave said | August 7th 2017 @ 9:03pm | ! Report

          No. The Force still need nuturing from the ARU for about another decade until a good crop of youngsters have tme to come through from their youth develop programs.

          This Euro competition is really only suitable for the Waratahs or the Reds. Teams with the strong rugby base to finance the move and to draw upon should the move not work out.

    • August 6th 2017 @ 9:02am
      Gurudoright said | August 6th 2017 @ 9:02am | ! Report

      If the Cheetahs and Kings go well in Europe both on-field and off-field and the travel aspect of the whole venture is manageable, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the rest of the SA teams head north after the current Super contract has expired. It is a better time zone for them and potentially more money. The jet lag would not factor in as much as the South Africans would not flying across time zones like they do when they fly to Australia or New Zealand.
      The ARU need to think of a plan b in case this scenario pans out

      • August 6th 2017 @ 9:16am
        kerryn said | August 6th 2017 @ 9:16am | ! Report

        obviously some forward thinking people at pro 12..south african teams don’t always have to travel to europe and european teams to the republic..they can play at venues in kenya, monaco, dubai, tunisia, portugal where there is a rugby footprint and open up more mkts and more revenue streams..south african rugby is popular mostly throughout africa..brilliant move..

      • August 6th 2017 @ 10:01am
        Bakkies said | August 6th 2017 @ 10:01am | ! Report

        The Sharks were keen to go too but there was no agreement for SARU to pull out three teams. The Bulls haven’t ruled it out.

        That will change when the next tv deal is negotiated.

        • August 6th 2017 @ 1:55pm
          Marcus McErlean said | August 6th 2017 @ 1:55pm | ! Report

          Trouble ahead Bakkies. Hopefully rugby will be the winner.

      • August 7th 2017 @ 2:01pm
        Nicolai said | August 7th 2017 @ 2:01pm | ! Report


    • August 6th 2017 @ 9:16am
      Unanimous said | August 6th 2017 @ 9:16am | ! Report

      The whole point wasn’t to make the other teams strong. Saving costs was a big factor, and most improvement in competitiveness is expected to come from eliminating poor teams rather than improving the others.

      Also, the Kings have lost nearly their whole squad, so saying ‘clearly they will retain’ is a bit silly. They are scrambling to get a team together.

      If part of the point was to make the other teams strong, it was very misguided.. Going from 3 to 5 did not make the original 3 weak. The original 3 teams had a better record in Super 15 for example than in Super 14.

      You can also look at how much better national teams are compared to provincial to see that you really need to concentrate players a lot to make a distinctly better team. Going from 4 or 5 to one team makes a noticeable, but not enormous, mprovement. Going from 5 to 4 makes such a small improvement that it is difficult to measure – certainly much less improvement than normal year to year fluctuations.

      Having said that, despite getting additional broadcast money for Pro14 matches, SA rugby will likely still have to draw significant money from the national pool to fund their Pro14 teams. They have committed to providing competitive Pro14 teams, not just any teams, and Ireland and Wales spend a large amount of nationally generated money on their provincial teams. Leinster, Munster, and usually 4 or more of the other Pro14 teams are high standard teams.

      So your overall point about the original purpose of the cull being changed is sort of correct, but for diffetent reasons. However, nothing that has happened in SA has changed the case for cutting a team in Australia, which was about saving money.

      That doesn’t mean cutting a team is the right option either. Cutting teams is always damaging, and no sport uses it as a method of balamcing its competitions because it is often so problematic. SR needs to look at other options such as a more open player market and better use of salary caps. Things which most other sports do successfully.

      A move to domestic leagues will entail at least a 15 year rebuild to get back to anything close to SR levels, and quite possibly will not ever get back. It runs a significant risk of ending professional rugby in Australia.

      • August 6th 2017 @ 1:21pm
        Marcus McErlean said | August 6th 2017 @ 1:21pm | ! Report

        A better “product” is what the broadcasters and all stakeholders including supporters were and are seeking as opposed to the watered-down version that currently exists.

        If you can point me to an article regarding the Kings squad that would be appreciated. They have less than 4 weeks to put a squad of 23 together if, as you say, they are “scrambling” to get a team together. I’m not sure who the Kings’ squad members have signed with considering there are only 4 other teams to sign with.

        Also, when depth is non-existent, reducing teams from 5 to 4 can make a massive difference.

        • August 7th 2017 @ 8:55am
          Unanimous said | August 7th 2017 @ 8:55am | ! Report

          A better product means a high proportion of competitive matches. This means reasonably equal teams, and also, to retain status of the league as a whole the teams need to look viable against any equivalent level teams in the world.

          A domestic league would not do that, at least not for 15-20 years. You can’t talk about raising standards as being the problem and also suggest domestic is the solution.

          SR is not watered down. The top 4 or 5 teams would compete well with 4th to 10th ranked national teams in the world. SR is unbalanced – too much difference between top and bottom. The solution is to better balance it. All other professional leagues in the world take this approach to this problem.

          • August 7th 2017 @ 8:37pm
            Marcus McErlean said | August 7th 2017 @ 8:37pm | ! Report

            But how do you balance Super Rugby teams when the teams in the competition allow some of their best players to leave their country? Reducing the teams from 18 to 15 certainly makes for a stiffer drink.

            In any event, I don’t want to see Super Rugby fail but something isn’t right! It didn’t need to expand to Japan and Argentina. It simply didn’t.

            Speaking of a domestic competition, it will certainly provide a more balanced competition that’s for sure – it’s proven at NRC level that anyone can win it. And NRC has been going for three years so that’s three years out of 15 years down.

            • August 7th 2017 @ 9:14pm
              Unanimous said | August 7th 2017 @ 9:14pm | ! Report

              Link to kings struggling:

              You balance super rugby in a similar way to a domestic league. Free up player movement across the league and then apply wage controls to even up the teams. Icehocky does it well in an international context with enourmous differences between player production and audiences.

              The international and dual role of some players (national and provincial) and the uneven concentration of national players requires some adjustments. So salary controls specific to each team but adjusted systematically on an anual basis – if a team finishes towards the bottom, its cap goes up, if a team finishes near the top it goes down. A formula can be used so that there is no politics involved.

              In more mathematical terms it would be a cap on the average value of new player contracts of each team that is inveresly proportional to competition points from the previous season. Current players have contracts so caps only affect new players anyway. It would be a financial version of a draft, but no player would be compelled to got anywhere they didn’t want.

              It might sound complicated but it is less complicated than many drafts commonly used.

              By adapting the salary controls you can compensate for the different travel each team has, the different currencies, the tendancy for some teams to retain international players which are paid for by national bodies, in fact for any imbalance.

              I agree there was no need to include more teams, but new teams can be included with appropriate equalisation measures. SR has done an awful job of expansion teams, as it has with balancing older teams.

              All expansion teams have had reasonable crowds in their first season. They have been viable markets. The player distribution has just been badly managed resulting in an uncompetitive competition with waning interest.

    • August 6th 2017 @ 9:27am
      kaiviti said | August 6th 2017 @ 9:27am | ! Report

      The inclusion of a Fijian Team in the NRC will not been the first that Fijian Rugby has come to the rescue of Australian Rugby. Look into the archives of Rugby in Australia and one will read about the magnificent men from the Islands who so enthralled the Sydney crowds that it sparked a revival of the game when it most needed reviving.
      Well that moment has arrived again and I certainly hope that the inclusion of a Fijian team in the NRC can rekindle and re egnite the spark of interest that the game in Australia so desperatly needs.

      • August 6th 2017 @ 1:57pm
        Marcus McErlean said | August 6th 2017 @ 1:57pm | ! Report

        Kaiviti, Fiji is very important for Australian rugby and vice versa.

        • August 7th 2017 @ 2:19am
          Jock Cornet said | August 7th 2017 @ 2:19am | ! Report

          Fiji saved easts rugby from relegation and extinction. We owe Johnny Kubu, George Kama and Mr Vatavai heaps.

        • August 7th 2017 @ 11:51am
          Tigranes said | August 7th 2017 @ 11:51am | ! Report

          Australian rugby needs Fijian rugby to keep producing more Henry Speights, Kuridranis for the Wallabies.

          • Roar Guru

            August 7th 2017 @ 2:56pm
            sheek said | August 7th 2017 @ 2:56pm | ! Report

            Who’s going to follow a Wallabies team full of imported Islanders?

            Some of you people are crazy!

            • Roar Pro

              August 8th 2017 @ 7:38am
              boonboon said | August 8th 2017 @ 7:38am | ! Report

              Seems to work for the all blacks

              • August 9th 2017 @ 5:42am
                usa kiwi said | August 9th 2017 @ 5:42am | ! Report

                Most of the “islanders” that play for NZ were born in NZ.

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