Kiwis now realising how much they need SA
Southern Kings interim coach Robbie Kempson, also the Director of High Performance at Port Elizabeth-based franchise, believes South Africa should have a foothold in premier competitions in both Southern and Northern Hemispheres.
Kempson was speaking to @rugby365 about the imminent return to play, when an eight-team Currie Cup will kick off next month.
The Kings and Cheetahs, who both play in the European-based Pro14, will get their proverbial kicks on home soil – as COVID-19-enforced travel restrictions will prohibit them from heading abroad for the foreseeable future.
When asked if SA should pack up and head north, lock, stock, and both barrels, Kempson’s answer was direct: “We need New Zealand [rugby] as much as New Zealand needs us [SA rugby].”
Without sugarcoating his response, he said the Kiwis are beginning to realise just how much they need South Africa.
“They are finding that out now, at the back-end of their [Super Rugby Aotearoa] competition and they are certainly finding that out, with whatever competition they are trying to put together for next year,” he said about the very public spat with Australia over the format of a competition for 2021 and beyond.
“We need that level of competition on a regular basis,” Kempson said of an ongoing relationship with the Kiwis.
He said he could see three of South Africa’s top franchises playing in a reduced SANZAAR competition – probably a Super 12, but certainly fewer teams than the varicose and unworkable conference format with 15 or 18 teams.
“For me, three SA teams playing in a SANZAAR competition, would be the ultimate.
“The other three franchises would then play in the Pro14,” he said of a competition he rates very highly, despite the Kings’ struggles.
“If we can have the best of both worlds [Super Rugby and Pro14], that would be the best permutation for SA Rugby.
“From a player point of view and from a coaching point of view, to play against New Zealand sides, on a more consistent basis, is the best for South African rugby.
“Then, having a foot in the door in Europe is just as important.
“Some of the top sides in world rugby – with Ireland and Wales always up there – that would be the best [option] for South African rugby in the long-term.”
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The financial constraints – pre- and post-COVID-19 – raised the question about SA Rugby’s ability to sustain six professional franchises.
While there is a constant stream of quality talent coming through the powerful school system, the financial viability is an issue.
However, Kempson believes it is workable.
“I think we can [sustain six franchises],” he said of the practicality.
Kempson added that in the wake of COVID-19 – particularly in England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland – clubs and competitions are beginning to question the number of foreigners in their game.
“I definitely think, with the amount of talent we have [coming through] and the resources we have at our disposal we can sustain it.
“I would not go more than six [franchises], five or six [franchises] would be the ultimate for us to be competitive on an international stage on a consistent basis.”