VIDEO: New calls for ANZ to dump SA from SANZA(A)R
WATCH as All Black Andrew Mehrtens joins to the chorus of voices for a change to Super Rugby – including the possibility of cutting the umbilical cord with South Africa.
Mehrtens, who played 70 Tests for the All Blacks, joined discarded Wallaby coach Michael Cheika, Irish legend Keith Wood and Ger Gilroy on Wood’s State of the Union on Off The Ball podcast this week.
Mehrtens repeated a statement made numerous times, that the vastly different timezones between South African, New Zealand, Australia and Argentina (SANZAAR) make the current format redundant.
The 47-year-old former flyhalf said Super Rugby “must change” to a competition played solely in New Zealand and Australian timezones.
“New Zealand is going to benefit ultimately from a revamped Super Rugby, and Australia will too,” the Crusaders icon told the Off The Ball podcast.
“I’ve said for quite a while now that while the competition has expanded, it hasn’t expanded in a consistent or logical way.
“It’s just added a couple of teams here and there.
“It went to 14 [teams], 15 [teams], then it went to 18 [teams] and dropped back down.
“Not many people are watching even their own teams at 3am [03.00] in the morning coming out of South Africa.”
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In the public domain there is ‘support’ for SANZAAR from all four countries, but there have been rumblings in Australasia about a possible break with SA for some time.
“It’s nothing against South Africa, but I think the competition would be much better more localised to one time zone, or expanding into Asia,” Mehrtens said.
“It’s been crazy somehow allowing Japan to somehow slip out of the SANZAAR competition.
“But if it means that Aussie, New Zealand the Islands and Asia get in together I think it could work well.
“The logical place for South Africa to expand would be places like Dubai.
“I’ve said constantly for the last five years that the competition needs to change.
“Super Rugby needs to wipe out those big divides in terms of the time zones.
“I’d love to see a Trans-Tasman competition in this timezone.”
Mehrtens dismissed the expected hullabaloo over his call to dump South Africa.
“South Africa will jump up and down and say: ‘You hate South Africa’.
“No, I don’t, other than they beat us in the 1995 World Cup Final.
“I don’t hate South Africa at all, but what I’m concerned about is the rugby product and I think that’s suffering at the moment through the structure of Super Rugby.
“One of the benefits of this COVID-19, like in a lot of industries and business as well, it’s given everybody a reset point to revaluate and say, ‘OK, so how do we go forward in an efficient way and make the most of what we have as a product.”
Cheika, who coached the Waratahs to the 2014 Super Rugby title, supported Mehrtens.
“I was adamant about changing towards Trans-Tasman, because we need to rebuild the supporter base,” he said.
“The economics [of Super Rugby] just don’t match up.
“The ability to build some continuity of fandom and following and support and sponsorship loyalty and return on investment for sponsors is nearly impossible.
“To break even in a Super Rugby team you have to have a home final, at least one if not two, that’s based on the Australian model.
“So, you’ve got three other teams that are guaranteed to lose money.
“I don’t know how it’s possible to sustain that model.”
Source: Off The Ball