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South African rugby journos pile on Australian rugby after horror start to Super Rugby Trans-Tasman

By Sam Smith
(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

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Super Rugby Trans-Tasman is the first international edition of the tournament with the notable absence of the South African franchises, which has piqued the interest of rugby writers of the former participants.

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During 2020, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa played local versions of the annual club tournament, sub-titled AU, Aotearoa and Unlocked respectively. During that time, the South African Rugby Union made the decision to pull its four teams out of Super Rugby and join an expanded PRO16 tournament in Europe.

SARU blamed NZR for the exit of the South African teams from Super Rugby, claiming they were only interested in a Trans-Tasman competition.

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NZR CEO Mark Robinson downplayed those suggestions that his union was at fault, responding that SARU had considered a move to the northern hemisphere for some time before making that a reality in 2020.

“South Africa have been very open about the fact that they’ve considered, at various times, going to the northern hemisphere and they feel the time is right to further investigate those opportunities,” he said at the time.

Now that Super Rugby Trans-Tasman has arrived, some corners of the South African media are dunking on Australian rugby after a winless first two rounds which has seen 10 victories to Kiwi sides from 10 matches.

Outspoken journalist Brenden Nel lead the charge with the virtue-signalling, asking how long it would be before the Australians ‘realise what they’ve done’ to their own rugby without the South African teams.

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Nel’s shot seemed to imply that Australia’s decision-makers had played a part in South Africa’s teams leaving.

One South African user also pointed the finger at both Australia and New Zealand, claiming they ‘led the charge’ in ‘booting SA’ from Super Rugby. He thought that the Australian sides had ‘fooled themselves’ with regards to how good they actually are.

Other journalists Mark Keohane and Craig Ray also jumped in to point out the uncompetitive matches, with Ray calling the lopsided scorelines ‘deeply worrying’.

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Whilst South African journalists have been quick to jump on the Australians results, just how dire the South African franchises were before their departure seems to have been forgotten, with most of the Springboks playing club rugby offshore and leaving the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers without much international talent and experience.

The South African Super teams have routinely been cannon fodder like their Australian counterparts for the New Zealand teams, and recent history suggests they would be faring little better.

Against New Zealand sides in 2019, the South African sides lodged a win rate of 23.4 per cent, winning four from 17 matches. That was consistent with their lowly return in 2018 of 27.8 per cent and just 16.7 per cent in 2017.

The South African sides found the Australian sides much more competitive, holding a slight advantage over them in the last two full seasons in 2019 and 2018, winning 57 per cent and 46 per cent of the matches in those seasons.

In that last full season before the competition disbanded in 2019, the Argentinian side Jaguares claimed the top position in the South African conference.

In the decades of Super Rugby before the split, just one South African team claimed a Super Rugby title with the Bulls winning three times. New Zealand teams claimed 18 titles, while Australian teams had five titles.

Whilst the South African sides hold a historical importance to Super Rugby, their on-field relevance had diminished greatly since the Bulls dynasty came to a close at the end of the 2000s.

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South African rugby journos pile on Australian rugby after horror start to Super Rugby Trans-Tasman

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