Firstly, the situation was that in July of 2001 South Africa, Australia and New Zealand agreed to consider the Super 14 idea, but in February of this year when looking at giving Super 14 the final go-ahead New Zealand vetoed the decision citing the Australians and South Africans failure to meet several financial conditions and not agreeing to extend the current TV contract deal with News Limited (parent company of Sky TV).
Here several issues come up - Aus and SA both claimed that these conditions were sprung on them unexpectedly, NZ claims that the July agreement was always conditional. I don't know what the real story with this is, but I would tend to think that the NZRFU wouldn't be THAT unpredictable. Seems more likely to be John O'Neil trying to make NZ look like the bad guy and give the Aussie media something to feed on.
Different altogether is whether the conditions New Zealand was trying to impose were actually fair or reasonable. It could well be that the NZRFU just didn't want the Super 14 to happen but rather than be direct and upfront about it they too wanted to give their media an easy way to justify their country's actions. Something along the lines of "It's their fault the Super 14 won't happen because they couldn't agree to our conditions" sounds so much nicer than "It's not going to happen because WE don't want it to", don't you think?
I agree with John O'Neil that it would have been stupid for Australia to sign up to renewing the News Ltd. deal five or six years in advance, and to agree to revenue sharing with their stadia gate-takings would have cost the ARU millions.
Next we come to money claims. One of the feebler Aus/SA arguments was that had the Super 14 gone ahead it would actually have been good for New Zealand due to the extra home game every one of their five teams would get and the extra gate receipts resulting. You have to remember though that Australia and South Africa would benefit considerably more from a Super 14. Australia would get an extra nine or ten home games, and South Africa an extra ten or eleven. You do the maths on how much better off South Africa and Australia would have been.
More convincing is of course that New Zealand ALREADY has all these extra games. On this account you would have to say a Super 14 would be fairer to SA and Aus.
I'm going to say that in the long term the SANZAR board might have regreted Super 14 so early though. because when the News Ltd. contract expired they could no longer have used Super 14 as a bargaining chip to get more TV money. Expanding it now would just mean extra gate receipts for SANZAR, not the more lucrative TV rights or tournament sponsorship which they could and should increase if the tournament went on longer.
Next point: the Super 14 would have been good for game development in South Africa and Australia. For South Africa it would have meant increasing their seriously questionable depth by exposing more players to the Super Series, whereas in Australia where they have talented footballers coming out of their ears an extra team would allow more of them to play in Australia instead of leaving to play in Europe or switching to league. David Rutherford won't say it but really I think that this is the real reason why he didn't want the Super 14 - it would have been helping our rivals.
Fair enough, you might say but I completely disagree. What a sad, greedy, loser little country we're getting to be if all we can do to win is to try and kill the game in other countries. It also seems stupid that one country can alone block something wanted by the other two - sort of undemocratic when you think about it.
Now on to the most important point of all. The Super 12 is great in my eyes because of one thing - pretty much every team is competitive.
Thinking about it, few other sporting tournaments in the world can boast this. The English Soccer League has the Manchester Uniteds, the Liverpools and the Arsenels and a couple of others who constantly easily beat all the rest. The only good games are when these top five play each other. The NRL: the Broncos, Newcastle, and the Roosters rule: the Tigers, Panthers and Cowboys suck. The NPC: only up to 6 of the 27 teams will ever win it again in it's current form.
The Super 12 isn't like that - I suppose you've got the Bulls, but other than that there are no teams that are too much worse or better than any other. If you were to introduce two more teams into the competition I would only support it if they could win at least 4 games right from their very first season. Would they be able to do that? I doubt it - especially a 5th South African team. At the moment not even the South African national side would be a certainty for the top 4.
There's obviously been a lot of crap by all parties in their bid to win public opinion but this is what I think should happen: - Get the potential South African and Australian sides together to play each other twice every year until 2006.
- Give these sides "tours" where they can play other provincial sides: maybe the potential Aussie side could play a few NPC teams - Wellington, Hawkes Bay, Northland, East Coast, etc...
- Get the marketing campaigns going for rugby in Perth or Melbourne and wherever in South Africa they're planning and hold preseason Super 12 games there between, say, the Waratahs and the prospective Aus. team.
- If in 2006 the NZ-AUS-SA problems can be sorted AND the prospective teams will be competitive in the Super 12 then by all means let them in.
Sorry to anyone who is used to mega-clever and funny stuff, but once in a while even Rugbyheads has to pull a serious one out of the bag.