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Southern Kings await likely Super Rugby cull on 7th July for possible Pro12 involvement

BY MARC JACOBSON - JUNE 14, 2017
Southern Kings await likely Super Rugby cull on 7th July for possible Pro12 involvement

SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux, has announced that a ‘special general meeting’ is scheduled for the 7th of July, pertaining to which two SA teams will receive the Super Rugby cull for 2018.

This comes after it was announced by SANZAAR earlier this year that two SA sides and one Australian side, will receive the axe, in attempts to ‘wedge’ the talent-base into a lesser number of unions.

The current six Super Rugby sides, who have largely underperformed over the last two seasons, bar perhaps the Lions, have all agreed to a set criteria for their future in Super Rugby, which were anchored as follows: financial and economic sustainability; sustainable support base; team performance; and stadium and facilities.   

All of these criteria have also been divided into sub-categories, upon which was also agreed upon by the six franchises. Although not determined, the Cheetahs and Southern Kings are highly speculative to be the two sides cut from the competition, while Australia’s single side is still undetermined.

With much legal strife hinging on which Australian side will be cut, speculations surround one of the Western Force or the privately-owned Melbourne Rebels to see the axe.

Conversely, in attempts to extend their markets, the Pro12, a Northern Hemisphere competition involving teams from Ireland, Wales, Scotland and Italy respectively, is looking to revamp its competition model, due to the fact that it “simply does not have the same chimney stacks as in England and France”.

This concerns England’s Aviva Premiership and France’s French Top 14 competitions, according to what Pro12 Managing Director, Martin Anayi, told BBC Sport last year.

With ultimate goals in mind to create a central plethora of market growth, the Pro12 is under discussions to advance the tournament to a global club showground.

"So we have to look at new primary markets, make sure we deliver full attendances and do the things we can do to make a change," Anayi also said.

"We don't see investment as the be-all and end-all of rugby generally. The market forces do not allow for the kind of spend they are spending (in England and France)."

This comes after the three-team Super Rugby cull, predominantly for Pro12 in rumours with links to the two SA sides, have similar time zones between them, while shedding a spotlight to broadened markets.

It was already reported that BBC Scotland invited the Cheetahs a couple of months ago, with the Free State side already 'accepting' their fate, with an ‘agreement’ with SA Rugby already rendered through.

The Southern Kings, although nothing rumoured yet, if were to receive their likely SR cull, would be placed in this same South African market, for the same time frame, extending more vastly in relations between the Pro12 and the South, while also conveniently being lapsed in a similiar time zone. The same cannot necessarily yet be said for the axed Australian side.

Accentuating this global involvement trend, Anyani has also previously held discussions to involve North American sides, presumably Houston from USA and Canada’s Vancouver. The same goes with the involvement of a Georgian side, while also extending talks with the German Rugby Federation as another Pro12 expansion.

Also with the two Italian sides, Zebre and Treviso, contributing so little to the current Pro12 set-up since joining in 2010, there have even been options to cut them instead – but this may be a ‘two-step forward and one-step backward’ approach for increasing the market revenue.

The future then for the two axed SA teams and the four ongoing Super Rugby sides, could very well split South Africa’s landscape right down the middle. After all, players will be magnetized to the most revenue flow, and if the Cheetahs and Kings are playing their trades with Euros, who knows what sort of powerhouses they may become.

On the other end, it may lead to the decline of the other four in a respective player drain, a counter-effect for cutting the original two teams in the first place.

The announcement on which two SA sides then, will not simply just rest on the two sides awaiting the news, but also the future relations between SA and SANZAAR, the future of the Pro12, the player exodus flow in the country and where the primordial market will be for club rugby.  

Image: SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux.