New Zealand Rugby (NZR) revealed plans on Friday to remove South African teams and Argentina’s Jaguares from Super Rugby next year.
The NZR’s planned renovation of the iconic Southern Hemisphere franchise tournament would contain New Zealand’s five existing teams, two to four from Australia and a newcomer from the Pacific, giving the expanding competition a strong trans-Tasman focus.
South Africa, which co-founded Super Rugby in 1996 with Australia and New Zealand, would see their five teams abandoned, along with Jaguares, based in Buenos Aires.
NZR Chief Executive Officer Mark Robinson blamed the Covid-19 pandemic for the “extremely harsh” decisions made around the new competition, saying traveling over long distances was impossible.
“We feel great empathy for what is happening to rugby in Argentina and South Africa and their inability to play right now and the uncertainty it is creating,” he said.
The coronavirus halted this year’s Super Rugby season in March, forcing New Zealand and Australia to establish national versions of the competition, while South African clubs and Jaguars remain sidelined.
Rugby Australia recognized NZR’s plans in a short statement, acknowledging the need to review Super Rugby’s “sustainability and practicality” in today’s environment.
SA Rugby said it would give a full answer next week, but noted that Covid-19 had “asked fundamental questions about the viability of competitions and match scheduling.”
RA will want Australia’s four existing Super Rugby teams to be included after suffering harsh internal conflicts when the Perth-based Western Force was eliminated in 2017.
However, he may have little choice, as RA President Hamish McLennan said last week that the relationship between the two unions was “a bit servile”, with New Zealand hand in hand.
Robinson declined to clarify which Pacific country would be included and also provided no details on whether the governing body, SANZAAR (South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, and Argentina Rugby) would oversee the new competition, the club’s ownership structure, or even whether to call it Super Rugby.