| 17.8°C Dublin

Springboks may make it a Pro16

South African rugby is weighing up options

Close

South Africa’s Siya Kolisi celebrates with the Webb Ellis trophy after winning the Rugby World Cup Final in Yookohama, Japan last November

South Africa’s Siya Kolisi celebrates with the Webb Ellis trophy after winning the Rugby World Cup Final in Yookohama, Japan last November

REUTERS

South Africa’s Siya Kolisi celebrates with the Webb Ellis trophy after winning the Rugby World Cup Final in Yookohama, Japan last November

South Africa are not yet ready to throw their eggs into the European basket despite New Zealand's Rugby announcing plans to abandon the current Super Rugby format from next season in a move that would threaten the long-standing SANZAAR alignment between the Southern Hemisphere heavyweights.

It is widely expected that the four top South African Super Rugby franchises will join an expanded Guinness PRO16, replacing the existing sides the Southern Kings and the Cheetahs.

And while he is not able to confirm the body's contingency plans, SA Rugby chief Jurie Roux, who sits on the Celtic Rugby board along with Rassie Erasmus, told a media conference it is "a long way down the road" in investigating its options.

The deal may rest on the South African sides, the Lions, the Stormers, the Sharks and the Bulls, gaining access to the EPCR-run Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup - a move that would require consent from the French and English leagues.

However, Roux is not yet ready to abandon the idea of a Super Rugby tournament including the South African sides and Argentina's Jaguares continuing in some form in 2021.

"I wouldn't be doing my job not to look at plan B or plan C," he said. "I've been doing that for a long time and there are a few options on the table.

"We can't touch on that just yet, but it is a long way down the road in terms of having different options that will probably suit us better, and which will help us build towards the direction we think we probably need to head towards over the next few years.

"So, we are making plans, but there's nothing to announce right now, and we have to weigh up options in the Sanzaar environment. We've obviously seen New Zealand's preferred structure for 2021 and, to be fair to them, we have been informed of their planning process.

"Given Covid-19, with projections of costings and travel restriction, the indication was that neither South Africa nor Argentina teams would be able to travel there until at least the end of May without undergoing a quarantine period.

"Every team would have needed to go there two weeks ahead of time … That's not a viable option and the New Zealand government hasn't given approval for that sort of thing to happen anyway as yet.

"So, the plan from New Zealand was for there to be a domestic competition first before a crossover competition could become something to discuss … So we haven't been kicked out of Super Rugby … New Zealand has every right to determine its immediate future, but there is a very legal and binding agreement with the Sanzaar alliance.

"The world of rugby is currently trying to get 2020 out of the way, that's probably the best way to describe it, either by finishing off competitions or beginning to look towards the 2020-21 season, and what they will look like," he said.