Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Gregor Paul: Sanzar restructure is getting super messy

Too many local derbies could be an issue with Super Rugby restructuring. Photo / Getty Images
Too many local derbies could be an issue with Super Rugby restructuring. Photo / Getty Images

The comforting thing is that Sanzar will get there in the end. Everyone has to keep hoping that's the case, as talks to restructure Super Rugby appear to be losing their way.

Perfection was never possible: it's a complex business blending a competition with teams from three countries with different needs and goals. But what's on the table at the moment is a long way from perfect.

One option has lopsided numbers in the two conferences, a messy situation that will have to be evened out with a convoluted play-off system. Within that, the African teams are going to have to travel to Argentina to play just one game and possibly then on to North America.

New Zealand and Australia will apparently go for that, taking the view it is not their problem what the Africans get lumbered with.

The alternate model retains three conferences with expansion to six teams in each.

That's good for South Africa, probably good for New Zealand and bad for Australia as they can't sustain five teams.

The danger with that, though, is that the emphasis on local derbies will be huge and perhaps they could become stale more quickly than administrators imagine.

There may also be a growing sense of imbalance; that the Kiwi and African teams are endlessly battering themselves in fierce local contests while the Australians have it somewhat easier.

There's also an element of doubt about whether everyone round the negotiating table is mindful that one of the core priorities in the restructure is player welfare and the need to build a format that is shorter so it can start in early March.

So far, so bad, then. None of the options look like winners. Broadcasters will buy it - but they will buy it because they need content, will manipulate things to suit them and probably aren't particularly discerning anyway.

But the market that matters - the paying public - might not feel the same way.

Super Rugby could become white noise. Impenetrable and interminable; the unwanted bit that you get when you buy a package to watch test football. Rip it up and start again might be the best advice. That way there might be some hope Sanzar will get there in the end.

- Herald on Sunday

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Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer. He has written several books on rugby including the Reign of King Henry, Black Obsession and For the Love of the Game.

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