While SA Rugby and the Springboks have committed themselves to staying part of SANZAAR and the Rugby Championship until 2030, it appears the PRO16 is the only way forward for the Stormers, Bulls, Lions and Sharks.
The latest reports out of New Zealand suggest Super Rugby is set to return to a 12-team tournament in 2022 – but without any SA teams.
Instead, the tournament will comprise of five teams each from New Zealand and Australia, and one each from Pasifika Moana and Fiji.
According to the New Zealand Herald, the relationship between New Zealand Rugby and Rugby Australia has improved to the point that a plan for the future of Super Rugby has now been agreed.
In 2021, New Zealand will continue with their Super Rugby Aotearoa tournament, which provided for several exciting matches and thrilling rugby, while Australia will hold a second season of their Super Rugby AU competition.
NZR earlier this year announced that it was effectively breaking up Super Rugby as they opted to form their own tournament and invited Australian teams to tender expressions of interest.
However, the Australian teams refused, citing NZR’s actions as arrogant and unfounded, leading to tensions between the two unions.
NZR’s major concerns at the time were that Australian rugby did not have a broadcast deal from 2021 and whether they had the player depth to sustain five franchises.
The new plan for Super Rugby is, according to the report, still subject to wider travel restrictions as well as certain financial criteria being met, with certain teams proving their sustainability.
If the plan gets the green light, it would certainly spell the end for South African teams in Super Rugby and pave the way for the SA franchises to enter an expanded PRO16.
SA Rugby confirmed back in September that the existing four Super Rugby franchises – the Sharks, Lions, Bulls and Stormers – are in line to join to an expanded PRO16 competition.
This would come at the expense of the Cheetahs and Kings, who have both been involved in the PRO14 since its expansion from 12 teams in 2017.
Many supporters have called for a return to the days of Super 12 which was held between 1996 and 2005.
Although that format didn’t produce a South African winner, it did offer some thrilling rugby as each team played every other franchise in one log.