Sanzar headed for a collision course over Super 15

SANZAR may have agreed to work towards expanding the Super 14 to a Super 15  in 2011 but the battle for the structure, timing and the 15th team have only just begun.

South Africa, New Zealand and Australia who make up SANZAR have to agree on a variety of details before the end of June so that they can submit their offer for the next five years of Super Rugby and the Tri-Nations.

One of the main obstacles is when the new tournament will start and therefore when it will end.

The South Africans and Australians disagree on the timing, while New Zealand are undecided but have in the past tended to side with their neighbours Australia in the end.

Sharks chief executive Brian van Zyl says that the five South African Super 14 franchises had given their negotiators, South African Rugby Union (Saru) president Oregan Hoskins, and acting SA Rugby MD Andy Marinos, a mandate NOT to agree to a format that would encroach on the Currie Cup.

“Australia don’t have a domestic championship and New Zealand’s final last year attracted only about 20000 people,” he told the Sunday Times.

“The Currie Cup final was sold out last year, so it’s still a very important competition.”

What makes the Currie Cup even more important is that SARU have pre-sold the television rights to the tournament and it is believed that it has been agreed that the Springboks must take part in a set number of games. If they are playing in the Super 15 – they would not be able to make that commitment.

Australia do not have a meaningful domestic rugby tournament outside the Super 14 so they would like the new expanded tournament to start in March and then end in August.

If the Super 15 goes ahead in that time frame it will clash with the Currie Cup and Air New Zealand Cup.

A SARU official who did not want to be identified, said the New Zealanders were of similar mind to the South Africans because of the Air New Zealand Cup which runs on almost the same time as the Currie Cup. If the tournament starts any later than the middle of February it will almost certainly clash with another tournament.

SANZAR are also said to be planning to play their matches against Northern Hemisphere teams in June (June tours) in the middle of the week which won’t please any of the big Rugby bosses in the Northern Hemisphere.

There are further SANZAR negotiations set for mid-March in SA and April in Perth, it is unclear how a solution can be found that won’t disappoint at least one party.

This is where the big problem in expansion lies. All three partners have to agree on any changes and any one party has the right to veto a decision. South Africa exercised that right last year when they put a stop to the expanded play offs for this year.

South Africa and Australia appear to be going head to head for the 15th team and if South Africa get their way with the rugby calendar it is unlikely that they would get the 15th team as well.

The 15th team will be based in Australian conference or pool for the first phase of the new tournament which will see local teams playing each other at home and away before playing the other 10 teams.

South Africa won’t be happy if the Australians get the new team and the later starting schedule and Australia won’t be happy with South Africa getting the 15th team and the existing schedule. Again, each nation has the right to veto any changes to the existing tournament.

South Africa plan to launch their new Super Rugby franchise from the Eastern Cape to be named the Southern Kings against the British and Irish Lions in June. They are hoping that with a local broadcaster as a backer they will be given the new franchise.

But as the new

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