Sanzar won't budge
SANZAR boss Greg Peters yesterday killed off any chance of South African rugby adding a sixth team to next year's Super 15.
Peters, the CEO of Sanzar (made up of the rugby unions of South Africa, Australia and New Zealand), delivered the final death blow to South African rugby's hopes during a frank interview.
"It's the South African Rugby Union's decision of how to fit six into five," Peters bluntly stated about a reality that has been painfully obvious to all but the Bulls, Cheetahs, Lions, Sharks and Stormers.
Saru's general council, which included representatives of all the South African Super 15 teams, voted unanimously to include the Southern Kings in next year's tournament. Since that January 27 decision, the five existing teams have been aggressively lobbying Sanzar, via Saru, to add the Kings.
Blueprints for a new competition structure have been passed on and pleas about South Africa's unique political situation have been made.
Peters was unmoved.
"We've considered several options to fit 16 teams into a new structure and they simply don't work," Peters said.
"The nature of the [regional] structure, and all the home derbies associated with it, doesn't allow for the inclusion of a 16th team.
"It creates an imbalance. I can assure you we have looked at several options. They just don't work.
"What we have said is that we will always talk to our partners, but we have sold a version of Super rugby for five years, expiring in 2015, with a [regional] format and an even number of teams [five each for the three countries]. If you change that you don't have the format we sold.
"We are only about to start the second year of a five-year deal."
The beleaguered South African teams have been pushing the line that South Africa provides the most TV viewership and live crowds and therefore deserves more.
Supersport pays the most in broadcast rights and holds minority stakes in the Cheetahs and Sharks. It's not in their interests to see one of those teams relegated at the expense of the Kings.
But even so, Supersport is not the only broadcaster in the three-nation deal.
"One of the major factors is what the broadcasters want," Peters said.
"They pay a lot of money across the three territories and that funds the game and it in turn funds the development of the game and the national teams.
"They are key stakeholders. It's not just Supersport but also Fox Sports in Australia and Sky TV in New Zealand and commercial partners, plus the [teams] that have built a commercial model on having eight home games a year."
Peters also laughed off the possibility of South African teams boycotting the tournament if Sanzar failed to allow a 16th team.
"The threat of boycott has been rebutted by Saru. If you look at the contracts Saru and by extension, the [teams], have signed, the threat of a boycott is hollow," Peters said.
"The joint venture agreement between the three countries says that each country must provide five teams to take part, but it doesn't state which those teams have to be.
"It's a domestic matter [as to] which those five teams are."