With the Super Rugby demise of the Cheetahs and Kings pretty much sealed for next season, it was no surprise that the SA interests of the two franchises have begun to look North.
Yesterday it was indicated that talks have already begun for the two teams to be added to the Pro12 – or Pro14 as it would become.
The supposition is that an expanded league would increase broadcast revenues, TV audiences and game attendances.
That may well be true but I am not that convinced – in any case a fair bit of additional income would be required to take account of all the additional travel etc. that would be required.
The proposal comes from former Southern Spears chief, Tony McKeever –
“I have already engaged the PRO12 CEO Martin Anayi and proposed he take these two teams and rebrand this as PRO14 and let the Cheetahs and Eastern Province Rugby be a part of this tournament, which starts in September,” he told Sport24.
“Martin is a visionary and seeks to expand PRO12 into new markets and grow the PRO12 TV audiences and spectators. This is a perfect synergistic way to accomplish that with South African Rugby.”
“With the size of the current Currie Cup and Super Rugby squads, both the Cheetahs and EP Rugby could easily accommodate this schedule and start playing in September 2017.”
McKeever continued: “This would rejuvenate the PRO12/14 tournament with excitement.
“The addition of two South African Super Rugby teams would increase TV viewership in Europe and South Africa and especially on-site spectator audiences coming to Bloemfontein and the (Nelson) Mandela Bay Stadium, to watch their teams play against teams from Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Italy, in this exciting tournament.
Personally, I think the PRO14 TV ratings will blow Super Rugby away and you might very well see a reversal of the exodus of players from South Africa and rather to these two South African PRO14 teams.
To be honest I think it makes more sense than the Pro12 looking to expand into North America but can still see plenty of logistic difficulties – especially in the area of player welfare. This would require the Pro12 teams to increase their league games by 4 and to significantly add to the burden of travel fatigue.
Of course to combat this you could set up a conference format – except, oh yeah isn’t this this is how Super Rugby got into its current mess?
I still feel that the best solution for Super Rugby is a two tier format – an idea that was put forward again earlier today –
Be interesting to see if these talks get anywhere.