SA’s time for another Super Rugby team will come – but not

Australian Rugby Chief Executive John O’Neill is already in Dubai for what will probably be some of the toughest talks in his SANZAR career.

SANZAR are meeting in Dubai this week where they hope to decide on the way forward for the Super 14 and TriNations Rugby.

Australia and South Africa are both looking to get another Super Rugbyteam that will participate in the Super 14 tournament if it is expanded to a Super 15.

Australia want a team, made up of possibly Japanese, Pacific Islands and Australian players based in Melbourne, Gold Coast, western Sydney or Newcastle, while South Africa are pushing to have their new black team the Southern Kings in the Eastern Cape.

South Africa have a bit of a jump on Australia as they know where their team will be based but O’Neill says that SANZAR agreed last year to give the next team to Australia.

South African Rugby boss said on the weekend though that they will not rest until they have a sixth Super Rugbyteam and plan to launch the Southern Kings against the British & Irish Lions on June the 16th.

Under the terms of their existing broadcast deal with News Ltd SANZAR must put forward a proposal, or proposals, for the next five years of Super Rugbyby June the 30th.

It’s highly likely that the three nations will not be able to come to an agreement so News Ltd may help them make a decision, depending on how the media company values the competing proposals.

“I’m hopeful we get potentially two options that we can take to the broadcasters,” O’Neill told The Australian.

“Broadcasters inevitably have a pretty good feel for what works and what doesn’t work.”

“If you put a proposition up to them that really doesn’t have much appeal, they will tell you pretty quickly, and the way they tell you is they price it poorly.

“It’s a bit like selling your house. You’ve got an idea of what it is worth. The agent tells you what it’s worth. You go to the market and you auction it and the market tells you what it’s worth. We are just about to find out what the market thinks.

“It’s not a die-in-the-ditch meeting, but in my view we have to come out with two options, which you can take to the broadcasters and get them priced and see which one actually suits the partnership and the individual members best.”

When it came to South Africa’s plans for an extra team O’Neill said that he understood the politics behind South Africa creating a team in the Eastern Cape, but said SANZAR had reached an in-principle agreement last year for the addition of a fifth Australian team.

“The Eastern Cape for South Africa’s purposes is very important politically to, over time, get a team in Super Rugby,” O’Neill said.

“Our view is the time is a few years away, not now. We’ll be pushing for our own opportunities in this market and perhaps Japan.”

“At the end of the day it has to be a SANZAR decision. It’s not a decision of any one particular union, but at the moment brinkmanship is around.

Under the SANZAR agreement all three of the Rugby Unions have to agree or the existing tournament rules and procedures stand.

“We all have to be a bit careful that we don’t overplay any particular hand. There are pretty tough economic conditions and the SANZAR joint venture has to think long and hard before its takes any particular decision.”

As two parties want their extra own teams there is a strong chance SANZAR will decide to go with the status quo but it would be difficult to negotiate a higher value for the same product in the economic climate and that is what the expansion is all about – more money from the broadcaster.

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