South Africa 'must be in Super 14' - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

South Africa 'must be in Super 14'

05/08/2008 07:47:10 PM Comments (0)

Australian and New Zealand administrators have distanced themselves from a mooted radical revamp of representative rugby union and reiterated their commitment to an expanded Super tournament retaining South Africa.

A report in the Dominion Post newspaper in New Zealand said representatives from nine New Zealand provinces had met behind closed doors over the last six to eight weeks.

It revealed details of a proposal which included a 14-team trans-Tasman tournament, containing nine New Zealand and five Australian teams, which would be contested on a home-and-away basis.

The article also referred to a 24-team "Heineken Cup" type competition which would run simultaneously from March to October.

The proposed tournament would contain 24 teams in four six-team groups with teams from South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, the Pacific Islands and the United States.

The Australian Rugby Union moved quickly to correct the suggestion in the article that ARU boss John O'Neill was briefed last weekend on the proposal.

"The understanding that I was briefed on this group's plans is incorrect," ARU managing director and chief executive officer O'Neill said.

He said he was "casually handed" a paper which he didn't read for two days.

He reiterated the ARU's commitment to expanding the current Super 14 tournament, which presently contains five teams from New Zealand and South Africa and four from Australia.

"Expanding Super rugby is what the game needs, there is no deviation from the aim," O'Neill said.

O'Neill has frequently talked about potentially incorporating other regions into a expanded Super tournament, but has never suggested South Africa would be excluded from the competition.

New Zealand also expressed their desire to expand the current format and retain South Africa over a trans-Tasman concept.

"SANZAR's current position is that it's very much a three-country expansion of Super Rugby with South Africa involved," New Zealand Rugby Union general manager of professional rugby Neil Sorenson told NZPA.

"The trans-Tasman idea does not include South Africa and that is absolutely not the NZRU's preferred position at the moment.

"At this stage SANZAR is unified in New Zealand, Australian and South African teams being involved in Super Rugby and Tri-Nations going forward.

"There can be no breakup of SANZAR, absolutely not."

ARU officials doubted whether the proposal of the New Zealand provinces would be raised at their next board meeting.

The New Zealand provincial unions are believed to be seeking a complete revamp of representative rugby as they reportedly feel the Super tournament has reached the end of it's life.

However, without the support of the NZRU, their plan looks unlikely to get off the ground or receive a serious hearing.

NSW Rugby Union chief executive officer Jim L'Estrange also threw his organisation support behind the current format.

"The SANZAR alliance oversees the toughest Super 14 competition in the world and Waratahs are right behind the vision to expand," L'Estrange said.

SANZAR recently proposed expanding its finals from four to six teams.

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