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Australia and South Africa set to go head to head over new Super 15

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Despite the global financial crisis it appears that there are no financial alarm bells ringing in Australian rugby as they plan to push their case for a fifth Australian team in Super Rugby at a Sanzar meeting in Dubai this week.


SANZAR (South Africa, Australia & New Zealand) have to meet in order to finalise a new broadcasting deal which must be submitted to the broadcasters by the end of June.


Australian rugby union boss John O’Neill is adamant that the country could support a fifth Super Rugby team despite the gloomy economic situation and stressed there were no fears about the four existing franchises.


He acknowledged the Force were experiencing “growing pains” but reiterated that the ARU would not allow the Perth-based franchise to fail.


“We are working very hard with the Waratahs, the Reds, the Brumbies and the Force to ensure that they remain financially well and healthy,” O’Neill told AAP.


“There’s no alarm bells ringing at the moment. We’ve got good sponsorship, good broadcasting revenue coming in.”


O’Neill said that crowds needed to improve and suggested that the tournament would be best served if it started in March but said that it was unlikely that this would happen for at least a couple of years.


He said the SANZAR nations needed to settle on preferably two options in their March 4 meeting that they could take to their broadcast partners by June 30 this year.


“I hope the meeting in Dubai really narrows down the differences,” O’Neill said on Monday.


“We made a lot of progress last year on a Super 15 model which was an additional team in the Australian Conference and one round where everyone plays each other and a second round where you played in your conference.


“It gave you a lot more home and away content and a six-team finals series and up until September last year that was the way forward.


“We came unstuck and even failed to get the six-team finals series up for this year, so we are back at the drawing board.”


O’Neill pointed out that other options included more engagement with Asia-Pacific nations or retaining the tournament as it is but stressed that it was not Australia’s preferred option.


The 15th Super Rugby team according to O’Neill could be based in Melbourne the Gold Coast, western Sydney, Newcastle … and possibly even Japan, though he thought that was a more feasible option in the future.


He says that he is not concerned about finding sufficient talent to fill a fifth Australian franchise.


“There’s a lot of Australian players playing overseas that you would work very hard to get back and there’s a lot of Pacific Islanders who would prefer to play in Australia and New Zealand – and a lot of them do – instead of playing in Europe, and let them into our competitions.


“Open the door a bit more on foreign players and there’s always the rugby league market.


“I think the overall availability of cattle, if you’re a bit imaginative, you could put a very competitive team on the field.”


The meeting in SANZAR is however expected to be somewhat explosive as South African Rugby boss stated on the weekend that they will stop at nothing in their goal to get a sixth Super Rugby team.


“Let no one have any misconceptions ‘ the delivery of  Super Rugby to the South Eastern Cape is a priority objective for South African rugby and no one in our organisation will rest until it has been achieved.” said Hoskins.


South Africa plan to launch their sixth rugby team regardless of O’Neill’s aims for a fifth Super Rugby team in June against the British and Irish Lions.


NZ and South Africa already have five-team operations in the Super 14 so a Japanese team would neatly round out the Australian conference at five a piece.


A sixth South African Super Rugby team makes no sense at all for a conference system given that if Australia were given a fifth team it would make it five a piece, rather than the six in South Africa, five in New Zealand and four in Australia that would be the situation if South Africa got an extra team.

 

Super14.com

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