- Rudolf Straeuli, the Lions’ chief, believes local franchises won’t play Super Rugby again.
- While pointing out that he doesn’t speak for the rest of SA rugby, the former Bok coach says commercial considerations will probably “force” teams to go north.
- He hopes that the 25-year Sanzaar relationship will mean the Springboks still play the All Blacks and co regularly.
He points out that he doesn’t speak for the rest of South African rugby but Rudolf Straeuli, the Lions’ chief executive, believes local franchises won’t play Super Rugby again once the Covid-19 pandemic stabilises.
Speculation is rife that plans are in place for an expanded PRO16 competition, which would see four instead of just two South African teams participating.
For his part, Jurie Roux, SA Rugby’s chief, previously stated that while the Sanzaar alliance is still legally intact, he “wouldn’t be doing his job” if he didn’t have “Plan B and even C” in place.
New Zealand’s publicly-stated preference for a trans-Tasman tournament – especially after the success of Super Rugby Aotearoa – is also possibly a death knell for the 25-year-old Super Rugby product.
“This is just a personal opinion but the future is north,” Straeuli told the final instalment of the Lions and Wits Sport’s coaching webinar series.
“The commercials are lying north and that’s going to force all franchises to move (into that region’s competitions). I’m not sure that we are going to play Super Rugby next year.”
However, even though the Lions would embrace competing in a new environment, the end of an era spanning more than two decades would be bittersweet for Straeuli.
The former World Cup-winning Springbok flanker has a long association with Super Rugby.
He played in the inaugural 1996 edition, memorably coached the Sharks to the 2001 final before becoming Springbok coach and has played an integral part in the Lions’ revival since 2014.
“Twenty-five years of Super Rugby has been unbelievable as a player, coach and administrator,” said Straeuli.
“We had a corporate breakfast in Sydney earlier this year where I just felt I needed to thank everyone. I’ve always thought it’s been one of the best organised competitions. All the materials were always in place, the facilities we had at our disposal when we were on tour were world-class.
“Playing in the tournament is really one of the greatest challenges for any team.”
Hopefully, that tradition will at least see the Springboks still compete regularly against the All Blacks and Wallabies.
“I wouldn’t like to think that we as South Africans wouldn’t want to play against New Zealand, to test ourselves against the best in the world. The Australians are also technically very astute and have been a great regional partner.
“Even the Argentinians made their mark,” said Straeuli.
– Compiled by Heinz Schenk