SANZAR boss Greg Peters is not concerned about the prospect of one of the South African Super Rugby franchises being relegated next year as the top players will still feature no matter which teams are involved.
While most people in South Africa are desperately puzzled as to how SARU will follow through on their intended plan to include the Southern Kings as the sixth Super Rugby team next year, the SANZAR chief executive seems quite relaxed about the situation.
Peters has made SANZAR's position on the matter clear - there will be five franchises in each conference until the current contract expires in 2015, which means that the options are that either the Kings replace one of the current SA teams or there is some sort of merger.
While that may result in much wailing and gnashing of teeth in South Africa, neither of these prospects has the SANZAR chief very worried as the contract requires SARU to provide any five teams, and however they intend to package them he is confident that the best players in South Africa will be playing Super Rugby next season.
He said: "The competition agreement that we have provides for each country to provide five teams to the competition so it doesn't specify which teams they have to be. It is a domestic matter for each country to decide which five teams make up their conference.
"It is not the name of the team but what players are available to play in it," he pointed out.
If that means - for example - that we will see Schalk Burger playing for the Kings, Joshua Strauss playing for the Sharks or Heinrich Brüssow running out for the Bulls it is certainly no skin off his nose.
While Peters has all the sympathy in the world for the position that SARU seem to have manufactured for themselves, he sees it as nothing more than your average domestic issue that cannot possibly have any influence on the agreements currently in place.
He commented: "There has been an open and honest dialogue between SARU and New Zealand and Australia as they are joint venture partners so we have understood the issue, we have said however that it is something that South African rugby needs to resolve.
"Every country from time to time has its own domestic issues and what we have said is that we will always talk to our partners but we have sold the current format of Super Rugby for five years expiring in 2015 which has a conference format with an equal amount of teams in each conference."
Peters confirmed that SANZAR have looked into expanding the competition to 16 teams, as proposed by SARU, but explained that it was just not practical at the moment.
"We have looked at the 16-team option and in the current format it doesn't work and it would be a big ask to move away from what was sold to our broadcasters and commercial partners for five years.
"We have considered and had a look at a number of various options to fit 16 teams in before and they simply don't work," he said.
The SANZAR chief was quick to brush off suggestions of a boycott if one of the current franchises is forced to make way for the Kings to be included in Super Rugby in 2013, pointing out that he was happy with the assurance from SARU CEO Jurie Roux that there is no substance to these rumours.
"The threat of boycott has been rebutted by Jurie Roux as CEO of SARU and I think that if you look at the joint-venture and broadcasting contracts that they are held to the threat of a boycott is hollow," he said.
The message from SANZAR is loud and clear - SARU got themselves into this situation by making promises before thinking about how the changes could be practically applied and it is up to them to find a solution as the Super 16 is just not a possibility.
By Michael de Vries
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