Super 14 expansion cracks widen - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Super 14 expansion cracks widen

By Jim Morton 30/04/2009 06:28:52 PM Comments (0)

Australia and New Zealand are strengthening their alliance, as cracks widen in their Super rugby relationship with South Africa.

Senior Australian and New Zealand rugby officials talked until late into Thursday after South Africa accused them of suspending plans to admit an extra team to the Super 14.

Officials have even suggested excluding South Africa from a purely trans-Tasman competition.

The South African Rugby and SANZAR chief Andy Marinos said South Africa would continue to work to preserve the SANZAR alliance as it faces the "gravest challenge" in its 14-year history.

"We're committed to the SANZAR relationship and have no desire to walk away from it, but it is a cause for concern that Australia and New Zealand have advised SA Rugby that they will be exploring the option of establishing a purely Trans-Tasman competition," said Marinos.

A nine-person working group is due to meet this week to discuss the structure of Super rugby from 2011 when a new five-year broadcasting deal is to begin.

The taskforce was expected to finalise its work well before a June 30 deadline to take to broadcasters but negotiations have broken down.

The main stumbling blocks have been the length of season, with South Africa opposed to plans for an expanded 22-week competition which starts in March rather than February, as well as the location of a new 15th team.

South Africa have provocatively named an invitational team to play the British and Irish Lions in June the Southern Kings, the same team they believe should be automatically included in the 2011 competition as a sixth SA side.

SA Rugby also said the coach for the yet-to-be-admitted franchise would be announced in July to allow him to contract players for the 2010 Currie Cup season.

Marinos said that the main sticking point on expansion centred on differing attitudes to playing Super rugby in the June Test window, when Australia is advocating mid-week internationals against Northern Hemisphere touring sides.

"Were all agreed on expansion and lengthening the Super Rugby season," Marinos said.

"To accommodate that, Australia and New Zealand want to continue playing Super Rugby with weakened teams during the June in-bound Test window."

South Africa have suggested their teams start their season two weeks earlier and have a break during the June Test window while the trans-Tasman teams catch up.

"It was their initiative to play through the June Test window but we believe that playing rounds 14 to 17 without the leading players could significantly skew positions on the log and affect the integrity of the competition," Marinos said.

"We want to expand Super Rugby and would even like to move to a Super 18 with each nation hosting a conference of six teams.

"But we would be reckless if we were pushed by another territory's dynamics into destroying what has made us the rugby nation we are over the last 118 years of Currie Cup rugby."

Marinos warned that South Africa had also explored plan-B options following suspension of negotiations, including a regional competition with European teams.

Brought to you by AAP AAP © 2022 AAP

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