South African Rugby Union President Mark Alexander explains why they have decided to have one leg in the Northern Hemisphere, while keeping another in the Southern Hemisphere – report Rugby 365.
The SARU boss said the addition of two more South African franchises to the Pro14 – most likely from 2019 – will give them the option to migrate fully to the north in the future.
For now, they will maintain their rocky marriage with their SANZAAR partners, while strengthening their ever-growing relationship with their partners in the north.
Alexander, at the South African launch of the 2018-19 Pro14 season, said they are “in negotiations” with their Euro partners to get the two additional teams added by next year – for the 2019-2020 season.
“We are excited about introducing another two teams in the north,” the SARU boss said, adding: “We will have four [teams] in the north and four in the south.”
He confirmed that the formal announcement of the identity of the two additional franchises for the Pro14 will be made “at the beginning of 2019”.
It is an open ‘secret’ that the two newest SARU franchises, Griquas and Pumas, are being ‘prepared’ for the trek north.
Some critics questioned whether it was a wise decision, given it contributed to a pre-tax loss of ZAR33.3-million for the 2017 financial year, Alexander said they will get big returns in the future.
“If you look at the long-term, we have options now,” the SARU boss said, adding: “If, at some point in time, we don’t want to play in the south [against their SANZAAR rivals], we can move north.
“It is also [good] for the [Springbok] coach.
“We [SA teams] are playing against most of the teams [from] the tier one nations,” he said, in reference to competing against teams from New Zealand, Australia, Ireland, Scotland and Wales in the various competitions in the two hemispheres.
“The only teams we won’t play against are [those from] England.
“Most of the other [tier one] nations [have players] playing in these competitions.”
He reiterated that some short-term losses will become long-term gains.
“It works financially in the long-term, once we become a full member [of the Pro14 organisation] in the next round [2019/2020 season].
“We are a full member of SANZAAR, which is a great competition for us as well. We will [become] a full member of Pro14.
“There is no other nation in the world that has the opportunity to play in two hemispheres.”
He said there is no danger the Pro14 will become the same failure as Super Rugby did with the constant addition of teams.
“The structure [in Pro14] is different.
“The biggest problem we face in [the] south [SANZAAR], is the distances between the teams and countries.
“Here [Pro14] we have an overnight flight.
“One looks at player welfare and playing in the north helps with player welfare.
“We are playing in the same timezone and the same timezones also helps with the broadcasts.
“Also, for a guy like [Springbok coach] Rassie [Erasmus], he can see how the players do in the north and the south.
“Rassie has options now. He can play different types of players on the year-end tour.
“We have ignored the [players in the] north for too long.”
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