Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large

Debate rages on over the 15th team

This will involve a radical increase in the number of games, including the introduction of a six-team final, and the season will stretch to 22 weeks.

The visit to the United Arab Emirates by Australia's leading administrators and its women's sevens team in recent days has certainly been fruitful. While the Australian women's side are savouring a historic triumph in the Rugby World Cup Sevens tournament, the Australian Rugby Union's chief executive John O'Neill has returned from Dubai hopeful that, following last week's SANZAR meeting, sanity will prevail at last about the future of Super Rugby.

It is more hope than belief, because SANZAR is renowned for cat fighting whenever they assemble and for saying one thing after gatherings, and then doing something completely different. But at least they have made the firm decision the Super 14 competition must be expanded to 15 teams in 2011, with the additional side being involved in an Australian conference. O'Neill described the seven-hour meeting as "frank", and after much to-ing and fro-ing it was resolved that the preferred structure of the expanded Super competition, to be presented to the SANZAR broadcasters on June 30, will have three five-team conferences - in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

This will involve a radical increase in the number of games, including the introduction of a six-team final, and the season will stretch to 22 weeks.The location of the fifth team in the Australian conference is open to conjecture. Apart from calls for the new franchise to be based in Western Sydney, Melbourne, the Queensland Gold Coast, or even Japan, South Africa and New Zealand are also contemplating making bids.

The confusion over where to locate that team, as well as when the Super season should start and finish, is bound to cause enormous arguments over the coming months.Already the South Africans are complaining that Australia and New Zealand are ganging up against them by attempting to start the competition a month later.For some time, O'Neill has been concerned that the Super season has started far too early. His argument was certainly helped when, following the Queensland Reds and Cheetahs match in Brisbane on March 1, the visiting captain, Juan Smith, was taken to hospital after collapsing with heat exhaustion. The match had been played on a Sunday afternoon, in high humidity and a 34C temperature.

Apart from the safety issue, O'Neill argued that the dwindling crowds at the Australian Super 14 matches in the first three rounds had been due to it being held in the summer, when spectators were more interested in heading to the beach, rather than attending a football match.This has prompted Australia and New Zealand to call for the Super season to start in March and end in August.South Africa have not been slow to complain, arguing that this will see it clashing with their much-cherished Currie Cup tournament, which begins in late June or early July.

The Sharks chief executive Brian van Zyl began the attack by stating that the South African franchises had given their SANZAR negotiators a mandate not to agree to anything which would affect the Currie Cup."Australia don't have a domestic championship and New Zealand's final last year attracted only 20,000 people," Van Zyl told the South African media. "The Currie Cup was sold out last year, so it's still a very important competition."

Then there is the crazy argument that another South African team should be included in the Australian conference- despite the logistical nightmare. So expect several more months of farcical debate.That is nothing new when SANZAR is involved.ggrowden@thenational.ae

Back to the top

More articles

Editor's Picks

 Chris Burch will play fly-half as part of a new-look back line for the UAE national rugby union team that will face Singapore at The Sevens grounds in Dubai. Sarah Dea / The National

Chris Burch to lead UAE’s charge against Singapore

he UAE’s bid to safeguard their place in the second tier of Asian rugby against Singapore next week will be piloted by a player who was contemplating retirement from the sport at this time last year.

 Seiichi Shimomura, centre, is part of a Japan squad that is the gold standard for sides such as the UAE, here in a Asian Five Nations rugby match at Dubai on May 10, 2013 and Singapore aspire to reach. Marwan Naamani / AFP

UAE and Singapore are rugby teams with a similar tale to tell

The UAE versus Singapore in rugby: a battle to see whether our expatriates are better than their expatriates, surely? Well, maybe not for much longer.

 Southampton owner Katharina Liebherr is pictured before the Premier League match between Southampton and Liverpool at St Mary's Stadium in Southampton, southern England, on March 1, 2014. Glyn Kirk / AFP

New Southampton owner leading club’s resurgence from the shadows

Katharina Liebherr keeping with family tradition and letting others dominate the spotlight

 Sharjah Cricket Stadium's colorful past was never like this – the IPL match between Royal Challengers Bangalore and Delhi Daredevils was loud, raucous and commerical. Pawan Singh / The National

No need for rose-coloured glasses when Sharjah Cricket Stadium host IPL

Sharjah still plays well as India's home away from home when it comes to big-time cricket, but the commercial overtones were in overdrive.

 Jorginho accepts the challenge that lies ahead for Al Wasl's improvement, and the club says it will give him time ... if they see results.  Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

Wasl will give Jorginho time but results in Arabian Gulf League are needed

Al Wasl officials said they will provide Jorginho, their new coach, sufficient time to change the club’s fortunes while also warning that his fate ultimately will depend on results.

 Mickael Barzalona riding Sudden Wonder, left, to victory in the Tattersalls Millions Trophy at Newmarket racecourse on April 17, 2014 in Newmarket, England. Alan Crowhurst/ Getty Images

Godolphin boosted by performances of two fresh horses at Newmarket

Be Ready underwhelms in Craven Stakes during otherwise successful day for stables


To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National