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Aussies eye tournament with SA participation but it is unlikely to fly

SA Rugby president Mark Alexander.
SA Rugby president Mark Alexander.
Image: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

The package with which Australian rugby officials are trying to woo their broadcasters‚ at this stage‚ is nothing more than a wish list.

On Monday‚ Rugby Australia unveiled a package that includes a Champions League style tournament with two South African franchises as part of the landscape.

The proposed four-week Super Eight competition will draw elements from soccer’s Champion’s League with the top two performing teams from Australia‚ South Africa and New Zealand invited along with a team from Japan and one from South America.

“They have a number of ideas on the table. It is about choosing one. That is their view‚” SA Rugby president Mark Alexander said as he tempered the hype around RA’s intentions.

“We haven’t decided what we want yet‚” said Alexander.

“There are a couple of options. The guys are actually still in debate‚ that’s why it is a bit premature to announce anything.

“There is a team of people currently negotiating possible competitions but there is nothing finalised yet. They are giving their broadcaster several offerings.”

With Super Rugby in its traditional form off the table after New Zealand announced that it will be moving away from the sweeping cross-continental concept‚ South African teams will most likely have to be accommodated in Europe.

The most logical home is the PRO 14 which means finding room on an already congested calendar for another month-long competition in Australasia may be a long shot.

SA Rugby's priority is the bigger picture.

“We have four teams. We are still in negotiations. What Australia put out is their view‚ not Sanzaar’s. Maybe they are trying to create hype‚” said Alexander.

The proposed Super Eight is part of a package RA is hoping to present to broadcasters in September. The package also includes either an eight-team domestic competition (five from Australia‚ and potentially three others from Japan and the Pacific Islands)‚ or a trans-Tasman competition involving five teams each from Australia and New Zealand.

A three-match ‘State of the Union’ series as well as a national club championship form part of the offering.

Australia have set New Zealand rugby bosses an early September deadline if they wish to be included in the competition formats.

Meanwhile‚ the pandemic continues to create uncertainty and even New Zealand‚ considered a safe haven for its ability to keep their cases to manageable numbers‚ have had another flare up.

Whether it will impact plans to host the Rugby Championship in that country in October and November‚ remains to be seen.

It has cast serious doubt over the last round of matches in their Super Rugby Aotearoa. What the latest flare up has shown is that plans have to be adaptable to the whims of the pandemic.