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South Africa and New Zealand hope to launch new local derby competitions

The plans will be met with extreme levels of doubt in many quarters.

SA RUGBY HAS confirmed the union is exploring the possibility of South Africa’s Super Rugby franchises and Pro14 clubs playing derby matches on home soil, echoing plans announced by New Zealand Rugby.

The move comes in the wake of the Guinness Pro14 and Super Rugby, both of which include South African teams, being suspended due to the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus.

While SA Rugby stressed that “nothing can happen in the next few weeks” due to the social distancing measures being applied in South Africa, the union is “confident” about putting a feasible plan in place for a home-based competition thereafter.

joseph-dweba-tackled-by-sibusiso-sithole-and-jacques-du-toit The Cheetahs and the Kings play in the Pro14. Source: Frikkie Kapp/INPHO

SA Rugby’s idea of holding derby matches within their own borders very much mimics the plans that New Zealand Rugby is currently exploring.

Rugby unions around the world are already under financial pressure due to the suspension of all professional rugby, meaning the likes of South African and New Zealand are examining their options.

SA Rugby is hopeful that South Africa’s Super Rugby franchises, Pro14 teams, and possibly even their provincial sides could feature in “a new, locally-based derby competition” if social distancing restrictions are relaxed in the coming weeks.

New Zealand Rugby hopes to do exactly the same with the Kiwi franchises.

However, these plans will be met with severe doubt in many quarters.

Given what we have seen of the spread of the coronavirus, it does seem extremely unlikely that any professional rugby games will take place in the weeks and even months ahead.

Nonetheless, SA Rugby and New Zealand Rugby are plotting ahead. 

“SA Rugby is currently evaluating all our competition structures, with a view to restructure it in the interim so that we are able to afford game time to all our franchise and provincial teams,” said SA Rugby’s CEO, Jurie Roux.

“Obviously, nothing can happen in the next few weeks until the ‘period of social distancing’, as instructed by President Cyril Ramaphosa, has lapsed.

“We are considering local derby matches between our South African teams. We must still drill into the specifics, but we are confident we will be able to put a feasible plan on the table that will be suitable for everyone.

“These are extraordinary times which call for extraordinary measures and it also offers us an opportunity to be innovative.

“We are working closely with our broadcast partner, SuperSport, and other important stakeholders and will announce plans once we are in a position to do so.”

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inpho_01501034 The Crusaders and Hurricanes play in Super Rugby. Source: Photosport/John Davidson/INPHO

Meanwhile, New Zealand Rugby’s CEO, Mark Robinson, confirmed that the Kiwi union hope to have their own plans finalised by the end of this week, following the suspension of Super Rugby.

Again, the idea revolves around the five Kiwi franchises playing against each other on home soil behind closed doors but screened live on TV.

“It’s been very clear that we’ve paused for two weeks and we’re quite excited about what we’re starting to develop with our Super clubs, with Sky [Sport NZ] obviously heavily involved in some of the discussion we’re having around what alternative products might look like,” said Robinson on Sky Sport’s The Breakdown show.

“This is a process that is quite complex and detailed and we have to make sure we take people with us and go through all the permutations.

“We’d like to think by the end of the week we’re in a situation to share more detail.

“We’ve got 10-12 weeks to look to provide some rugby product for our fans. We’re in regular dialogue with them [the five franchises] on a daily basis.” 

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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