Rugby: O'Neill losing patience with pace of Super Rugby talks

Australian Rugby Union chief executive John O'Neill is fast losing patience with South Africa's stalling over super rugby expansion plans, and hasn't ruled out going it alone with New Zealand.

Reports that the South African Rugby Union (Saru) is expected to sign off on a later start for its domestic Currie Cup competition to allow an expanded super competition are being treated with caution by O'Neill.

And he remains frustrated that negotiations seem to be moving at a snail's pace.

"We're still talking. It's very ambiguous at the moment. I think all the moving so far has been by Australia and New

Zealand, that's the truth of it, and you get to a point where you can't move any more," O'Neill said in Sydney yesterday.

"Australia and New Zealand have shifted, and all we have out of South Africa is the press release that came out, which I've held up to the light and I still don't understand it.

"I'm sure we'll hear more this week, but it's a very difficult negotiation."

Discussions between the Sanzar nations in Perth and Johannesburg have yet to confirm an expanded competition for 2011.

The sticking point remains the Currie Cup, for which broadcasting rights have already been sold and Saru has said its provinces are reluctant to shift.

There have been reports plans had been drawn to break the Currie Cup into a top pool of six teams and another of eight teams and push the start back from early to late July.

If approved by Saru, it would allow Super 14 to become Super 15 and be broken into three geographic conferences. It would start in early March and end in early August, which was a non-negotiable for New Zealand and Australia.

While New Zealand Rugby Union chief executive Steve Tew said a compromise wasn't ideal, but was potentially a workable and innovative solution, O'Neill remained unmoved.

"Inevitably you always have a plan B. Our preference is still a Super 15, a round and a half [24 weeks], what we call the Perth outcome," O'Neill said.

"We've been absolutely consistent about that. We shifted to the Sandton option which was a compromise and we're still waiting to hear what conditions that South Africa is attaching to the Sandton option.

"But if you end up with a complete impasse, we've got a game in Australia and New Zealand that requires a big chunk of mass entertainment product. If it can't include South Africa then transtasman and Asia-Pacific options have to be looked at."


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