SHIFTING HEMISPHERES: SA Rugby reaffirm commitment to Sanzaar until 2025 — but no further

SHIFTING HEMISPHERES: SA Rugby reaffirm commitment to Sanzaar until 2025 — but no further

As far as major announcements go, the news that the Rugby Championship involving the Springboks, All Blacks, Wallabies and Pumas would continue as is until 2025, was hardly revelatory.

South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Argentina Rugby (Sanzaar) made the announcement in the early hours of Wednesday morning, although there was really nothing new in it.

Sanzaar breathlessly stated that its members had signed a “joint venture agreement” whereby they “committed to the organisation through to the end of the current broadcasting cycle in 2025.”

In early 2020 Sanzaar announced a new five-year deal until the end of 2025, and although aspects have changed around the shape of Super Rugby, the Rugby Championship has not.

In other words, Sanzaar’s release just reaffirmed an agreement that was already in place. What the release couldn’t or wouldn’t clarify was the future of the organisation in this form, and of the Rugby Championship tournament beyond 2025.

And it looks increasingly likely that the alliance might fully fall apart after 2025 if SA Rugby’s ambition to have the Springboks play in the Six Nations is realised.

Springboks player Bongi Mbonambi (second left) in action during Round 6 of the Rugby Championship match between South Africa’s Springboks and New Zealand’s All Blacks at CBus Stadiumon on the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia, 2 October 2021. (Photo: EPA-EFE/DAVE HUNT)

SA Rugby is close to finalising a deal that will see the Springboks playing in the Six Nations from 2025 (and possibly as early as 2024). That outcome would make the Boks’ participation in the Rugby Championship after 2025 debatable, if not impossible, unless there is a global move towards a more compatible calendar between the northern and southern hemispheres.

It’s possible of course, and in some ways desirable, for the Boks to continue to play against the All Blacks in particular on an annual basis, but it’s no longer guaranteed.

URC bond

With SA Rugby’s move north, where the country’s four leading franchises have set out their stalls in the newly formed United Rugby Championship (URC), the Sanzaar alliance is crumbling.

The Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers are all involved in the URC now, and from next season — 2022/23 — they will be eligible to qualify for the European Champions Cup.

SA Rugby will also become shareholders in a new company called Pro Rugby Championship, which owns the URC competition. As a consequence, they will have a cut of the broadcast and sponsorship revenues in due course.

In the previous incarnation of PRO14, which featured the Cheetahs and Southern Kings between 2017-2020 in the Celtic/Italian competition, SA Rugby paid R40-million for those teams to play. It was money well spent because it laid the foundation for the current structure with Six Nations inclusion the most important objective.

“South African rugby has for many years imagined a future aligned with northern hemisphere rugby and t

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