Why has SANZAAR remained silent on Super Rugby 2022 plans?


Although the two-way travel bubble is now officially open between Australia and New Zealand, we are still a few weeks away from the Trans-Tasman Super Rugby starting in earnest, and to some extent this competition remains firmly in the game. “I will believe when I see them run out”.

Even just four weeks away from the first round of the competition, it feels like the ‘proposed’ prefix is ​​still needed.

There’s a lot less reason not to move forward now, but it still feels like it wouldn’t take much for him to be quickly swept into the too hard basket.

As we know, the proposed Super Round, originally scheduled for Round 3 of the cross-over competition, already resides in said basket, after the match simply ran out of time to put on such a gigantic event.

But despite the fluidity that still reigns around what professional rugby looks like on either side of the Tasman in just a month, plans for next year are moving forward regardless.

Last week New Zealand rugby welcomed its conditional approval for the addition of Moana Pasifika and Fidjian Drua to next year’s competition.

“The decision of the NZR Board of Directors to approve the licenses is a major step towards the two Pasifika teams joining NZR’s five existing Super Rugby Aotearoa clubs and Rugby Australia (RA )’s five Super Rugby AU teams in a new tournament scheduled for 2022 and is conditional on their final. business plans and RA support, ”read the NZR press release last Wednesday.

It was a piece of news that was greeted with great enthusiasm in the various media, prompting a lot of discussion on social media and online forums, including these same pages.

Even with the meaningful and obvious “ terms of application ” in the fine print that accompanied the news, it’s really great news to see real movement – rather than rhetoric – around granting access. at the professional level of the game for the Pacific island nations.

Rugby Australia followed up with a cautiously worded statement later the same day, stating that they were “encouraged by today’s announcement regarding the conditional approval of licenses for Moana Pasifika and Fijian Drua”.

“As co-participants and administrators of the competition, Rugby Australia looks forward to understanding the results of the next phase of its license approval,” the statement continued.

The key point for me, among several key points raised by the RA response, was the words: “As co-entrants and administrators of the competition”.

Until then, you could easily have assumed that NZR rugby was progressing regardless with plans and announcements for a competition on an unknown structure, format and administration. It wasn’t that far from their sense of the noose during the very first talks around a post-COVID comeback, where they boldly made room for “two to four teams from Australia” in 2021.

(Photo by Paul Kane / Getty Images)

But after I finally stopped trying to figure out which NZR licenses conditionally granted, my curiosity spread a little further up the rugby tree – to the body that, in theory, still rules professional rugby in the Southern Hemisphere. .

As more and more things were said, written and discussed about next year’s competition throughout the weekend, an important question remained in mind:

Why hasn’t SANZAAR said anything about plans for 2021?

Well, mainly because it’s not about SANZAAR’s intention to say anything, I’ve learned over the last couple of days.

While it had already been explained to me that Super Rugby AU and Super Rugby Aotearoa, and even the upcoming Super Rugby Trans-Tasman, remain SANZAAR competitions overseen by the governing body of the joint venture, this is not really the case. .

A SANZAAR spokesperson confirmed to me that the respective national competitions belong to the national unions and not to the SANZAAR partnership; that is, the full joint venture comprising South Africa and Argentina.

In addition, the future trans-Tasman composition will be a joint venture of RA and NZR, unattended by SANZAAR.

SANZAAR’s role in the current competitions is more focused on assisting in the management of travel and logistics, as well as on the judicial process. SANZAAR announces match officials for the respective competitions every week, but the appointments are actually made by RA and NZR.

The SANZAAR joint venture owns and operates the Rugby Championship tournament at the Six Nations, but does not now oversee a provincial tournament within its remit.

The Super Rugby brand remains that of SANZAAR, and its dedication to domestic competitions in Australia and New Zealand makes perfect sense, as it did with Super Rugby Unlocked in South Africa late last year. Whether the Super Rugby name stays in place next year and how this competition is governed remains a decision for RA and NZR.

Reds' Taniela Tupou celebrates her tryout

Taniela Tupou. (Photo by Mark Kolbe / Getty Images)

So what about Rugby Australia?

So far their implication has been – by design – to let NZR handle the process that they feel needs to be executed, but knowing that they will still be able to make the best decision for Australian rugby.

The weekend’s reports confirm this, as does last week’s statement: “Rugby Australia is excited about the growth of rugby in the Pacific and is committed to exploring future opportunities in the region, in conjunction with sustainability. and the continued success of Australian Rugby and its Super Rugby Teams. “

My understanding is that conversations between Australia and the Fijian Rugby Union have been going on for months, and that discussions of Drua’s entry into Super Rugby were firmly on the table, even if that only meant the Australian edition to new. Australian rugby has reasonable points on the board when it comes to game attendance in Fiji, but there’s also no denying that three games a weekend are better than two.

Likewise, and logically, six games per weekend are as much better than four.

I understand that RA has set a timeline for the next few months to conduct its own due diligence on the offers and to ensure that it is confident that both teams will be ready to go in 2022. Paul Cully for Stuff.co.nz also wrote about this, this postponement to 2023 could be an option “if (RA) considers that the process has been rushed or would compromise the launch of the new competition in 2022.”

That said, if the offers are cumulative for RA, the next step in the process would be to initiate discussions with NZR about the format of the competition (for example, round robin or conferences), and how the competition is going. Again, RA and NZR raised the subject of commission style governance.

All of this is really encouraging.

No doubt the news around Moana Pasifika and Fijian Drua getting closer to the professional game is wonderful and is rightly celebrated for being the wonderful opportunity it presents.

And I say this even with all the obvious and complicated questions that remain. Many very important details still need to be worked out even once new approvals are given and Rugby Australia provide their own rubber stamp on the process.

Obviously, there are a lot of checkboxes. But it certainly feels like there’s enough goodwill on all sides of the 2022 plans to make it happen.


About Nicole Harmon

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