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Mehrtens: Time for SuperRugby to ditch S.Africa

Andrew Mehrtens says the time may be right for South Africa to play in Europe

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Article Published: Wednesday 16 April 2014|

Former All Black and Crusaders flyhalf Andrew Mehrtens has said that it might be time for New Zealand and Australia to ditch South Africa in Super Rugby.

Mehrtens highlighted the difference in time zones as the main reason for the growing lack of interest.

Super Rugby is approaching it's 20th year and although the tournament  still has a good following there appears to be a growing feeling that interest is waning as the same teams play each other year on year in time zones that don't suit broadcasters or fans in Australia and New Zealand.

Mehrtens says that he got up on Sunday morning to watch the Cheetahs play his former team the Crusaders but he says, "I'm sure I was in the minority".

"I can't help thinking we might have lost a little interest in playing South African teams, and that ultimately the future of this competition (Super Rugby) might be more localised round time zones," Mehrtens said in his column on Stuff.

The 70 cap All Black said that he feels rugby needs more "tribalism" and matches to be played in the right time for broadcasters and fans.

"The provincial championship still has a pretty strong following, and if you're looking at what Australia and New Zealand needs, maybe it's that parochialism, that tribalism which is very important.

"The logistics of involving South Africa are problematic - the travel and time difference - and maybe it would be better for all concerned just to play within our time zone and include teams from the Pacific Islands and Japan."

"New Zealand needs to align with a couple of big economies. It can't be the UK or France, so we have to look at helping grow the game in Australia. Japan would be the other natural alignment that could help with the finances.

"You might have 20 teams in our time-zone - eight or so from New Zealand, maybe six in Australia and the rest from the islands and Japan."

"Granted, greater minds than mine might need to hammer out the detail, but that's the way I see the game heading over the next couple of decades" said the former All Black who was born in Durban South Africa.

Mehrtens is essentially talking about a change in the Super Rugby season as he wants to keep the Rugby Championship going while also seeing more rugby tours.

"Maybe there could still be post- season involvement with South Africa, but their natural alignment is more with the UK and Europe, in the same time zone," said Mehrtens.

"I'd also like to see more full- scale tours. Lions tours are runaway successes and rugby needs to tap into the demand for these sort of events.

"Again the IRB would need to lead the way, and maybe tours could alternate each year with the Rugby Championship. "

"That would mean every four years a country could host a major tour, whether it's by the Springboks, Wallabies, All Blacks or Lions."

"The upshot would be New Zealand aligning closely with Australia and Japan (in Super Rugby), yet retaining links with South Africa and the UK through the touring structure and test matches."

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