What a week it’s been in the SANZAAR world. Who’d have thought South African finally pulling the pin on Super Rugby would only be the second-biggest story in southern hemisphere rugby this week?
Clearly things are not going well. But how not well? We’ve put that to the panel.
Despite New Zealand chairman Brent Impey holding the same position for SANZAAR, it took NZR seven whole minutes to voice their disapproval of the schedule for the Rugby Championship last week. Given the ongoing doubts about South Africa, was this yet another crack appearing in the SANZAAR partnership?
Note: This question was asked and some of the guys responded before South Africa elected to send its four Super Rugby teams to an expanded PRO rugby tournament in the northern hemisphere from 2021.
Considering the situation in the world with the pandemic and the restrictions countries are forced to impose to prevent the possible spread of the virus, I welcome any form of Rugby Championship that we may have. I was surprised by the number of possible matches, and the reality is it’s spoiled to complain about something.
It seems good to me that Los Pumas and the Springboks meet on the first date as they both suffer from inactivity. I believe in the importance of these games as a triumph over what we are experiencing and I consider the results irrelevant. We have not had rugby in Argentina and South Africa for six months and that already makes the results relative.
A crack in SANZAAR? When the partners’ objectives are dissimilar in the face of a critical situation of this nature, it is very likely, since the foundations of the company are not solid.
SANZAAR is like that marriage that grew a little stale after the kids grew up and one of the partners suggested spicing it up by a little swing here and there.
After a while the whole basement became overrun with whips and chains and heavily armed smoking Israeli army girls without shirts and scowling German bodybuilders wearing lederhosen, and even though the two who began the family were still technically ‘married with kids’, it was all just a seedy, sad, disgusting charade.
There is very little good and wholesome and above board in this group of southern hemisphere unions, who got bamboozled by French and English club cabals a while ago. It is over bar the shouting over the toasters and such.
Another crack, or canyon, in the partnership, like the separated couple living together for the kids or hanging about while the receivers padlock the gate. Pointless.
The megalodon had its time on earth and was feared during its time, but just like that big shark, SANZAAR is quickly rising up the ranks of threatened species. It’s difficult to see it evolving in its current form.
It’s not so much a crack appearing but rather more cracks splintering away from the original grand-daddy crack, which I think emerged back somewhere near 1998. It wasn’t yesterday, put it that way.
New Zealand Rugby continues down their path of ‘we didn’t agree to the schedule’ when the minutes of the SANZAAR meeting in question, according to reports on both sides of the ditch, say otherwise. Even when sections of the New Zealand media are pointing out their governing body’s hypocrisy and suggesting ‘diplomacy for beginners’ courses they’re still trying to argue the point.
But this is just the latest disagreement. Before that, it was the inward-focus on COVID-forced domestic competitions. Before that it was debate over how best to shrink Super Rugby back to greatness. Before that it was debate over how best to expand Super Rugby to greatness. Disagreements are the unwritten chapters of the SANZAAR by-laws that go all the way to 1996.
NZR has found out the hard way this week that the ‘SA’ and ‘AAR’ parts of the partnership are no longer prepared to bow at their feet. Indeed, South Africa have just this week rediscovered theirs and are preparing to use them to finally play the long-rumoured threat to walk away. Self-interest is the only common denominator.
What, is that not enough?
Well then, yes, it’s clearly another indication SANZAAR relationships are reaching their nadir. It was becoming more and more apparent the partnership had just about outlived its usefulness from a franchise standpoint even before yesterday’s Super Rugby AU vote to send their Super Rugby sides to Europe.
However, all four national sides benefit from competition between each other, so that these fractures are spreading into the international landscape bodes poorly indeed, even if it’s not particularly surprising.
South Africa have now played a series of friendlies among their Super Rugby sides, and the Green vs Gold Springboks intra-squad is this weekend coming. But Argentina could arrive in Australia with no game time at all under their belt. Assuming they want it, is the obligation on SANZAAR, Australia or the UAR to find a couple of pre-tournament friendlies for Los Pumas?
Argentina has requested Rugby Australia for help to organise matches, and I do not believe that it is SANZAAR’s responsibility to achieve them, rather the responsibility should be UAR’s.
The Pumas are in Uruguay training but without matches. At least the ten best Jaguares players are already in Europe, and I don’t think the clubs will authorise them all to travel.
The best thing for Argentina is to get to Australia as soon as possible.
The Barbarians often pitch for a one-off Test and shock the opponent, who had more game time and planning. Argentina could upset the luckless, lockless Boks and Wallabies, but the All Blacks will run riot over all three unless South Africa can select an A team or if Dave Rennie can find a way to contain the ball and split the Kiwi defence. Sure, the Pumas should play a bit, but the whole thing just looks like a bad idea except for everyone being on the brink of bankruptcy, and so it is just a carnival of cannibalism.
The principal obligation is on the UAR to shape their squad as best they can, but it is in all aligned parties’ interest to ensure the tournament is the best it can be. Certainly the other members and hosts should be doing all they can to assist the Pumas to prepare and perform in this tournament.
To leave them to their own, well, just further cracks really.
It’s all of them really.
Argentina needed to and have already requested it, Australia are evidently trying to facilitate it and SANZAAR need to fund it.
By the time they arrive in Australia to start isolation ahead of the tournament start – noting it’s still a bloody big ‘if’ at the moment – all of the Springboks will have at least a couple of games under their belt, be they franchise friendlies or the Springboks trial game this weekend.
The Pumas will have whatever they can throw at each other in camp.
It’s admirable that the UAR and the Pumas themselves agreed to play the Rugby Championship cold, but it’s up to everyone to ensure they’re at least somewhat prepared for their first match.
In a year like this you can’t pin sole responsibility for scheduling on any one governing body.
Naturally much of the onus falls on the UAR – they’re the one whose team have to play the games after all.
But Rugby AU and SANZAAR would only be hurting the legitimacy of this Rugby Championship if they don’t help Los Pumas get some game time under their boots before Round 1.
At the original announcement Rugby Australia interim CEO Rob Clarke indicated the Pumas would be offered two matches leading into the Rugby Championship.
Given the timing and how Randwick got dusted up last time that happened, it might be hard to get a volunteer from the Shute Shield clubs. And the idea of picking an Australia A side from those who never made the Wallabies squad is made more difficult by their pay cut being extended and some players heading back to Melbourne.
But if Argentina want a match or two, let’s hope that original intent is honoured and they get a decent preparation.