Backlash to Super Rugby expansion begins

The backlash to Super Rugby being expanded again has begun with double Super Rugby winning coach Dave Rennie amongst others slamming the idea.

Super Rugby organisers SANZAR issued a limited statement on Thursday saying that they had agreed on a proposed format to include a sixth South African franchise and a team from Argentina.

The addition of two further Super Rugby teams will take the number to 17 teams when the next broadcast agreement comes into effect in 2016.

Fans across the web – outside of Argentina – have slammed the move to expand the tournament again but the highest profile criticism came from Dave Rennie.

The Chiefs coach says that he is fully opposed to the changes and has cited concerns for player welfare and added that he has major concerns that the integrity of the tournament could be compromised by adding weak teams.

Rennie was not alone in his criticism as former All Blacks captain Taine Randell, ex-NZRU boss David Moffett and national players’ association boss Rob Nichol have also spoke out against SANZAR’s proposal.

Rennie feels that the New Zealand coaches and players who were consulted on the matter have been ignored by SANZAR bosses.

“While we’ve been consulted I’m not sure we’re being listened to,” Rennie said.

Rennie said that the New Zealand Super Rugby coaches were keen on a 14-game round robin format between the 15 teams where everyone plays everyone and a season that is shortened by two weeks.

“The New Zealand coaches wanted a legitimate competition where everyone plays everyone,” Rennie told the Sydney Morning Herald.

“All the other scenarios include more teams, more travel and more time away from home.”

“Their proposal has the same amount of games, but it’s not necessarily in the best interests of player welfare for our players.”

Rennie said he feels SANZAR’s proposal for further expansion was compromised by the politics inherent in the managing body owned by the three unions of South Africa, New Zealand and Australia.

“Another South African side may generate more money but is it in the best interests of our players and the competition?” he asked.

“I’m not sure how the public will take to their proposed format. Some of the punters would find that hard to follow.”

Rennie said that he was also concerned about the competitiveness of an Argentinian team and says that it could become another Western Force and Melbourne Rebels who have had to sign South African and New Zealand players as they don’t have the depth of homegrown talent.

“I’m not sure where they’re going to get their players from. Most of them play in Europe,” he said.

“The worry is if there’s not the quality in Argentina, maybe they’ll start grabbing from New Zealand which further thins out the pool here.”

Former All Black captain Randell said that SANZAR’s plan to include Argentina and another South African team are “defying logic”.

South Africa are regularly touted as having the greatest pool of talent but in 13 of the 18 years in Super Rugby the last placed team has been from the country.

Randell feels that South Africa’s Super Rugby record does not justify them getting an additional team and feels that the Pacific Island nations have been snubbed.

Former NRL, Wales and NZ Rugby boss Moffett said that SANZAR was bowing to political pressure and South Africa’s threats of joining Europe and has labelled the expansion to a 17-team competition as “insanity”.

Moffett said that by pushing “quantity over quality”, SANZAR risked turning fans off Super Rugby.

“It’s absolute insanity. People will get fed up. The quality of rugby will just go down further,” said Moffett who has been tipped to become the next chairman of the Wales Rugby Union.

“The extra South African team is purely political. “

“There certainly aren’t enough quality players in

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