Super Rugby was on track to bankrupt Sanzaar. That's the chilling revelation from South African Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux.
Anyone affiliated with Super Rugby now knows the 18-team format was a shambles.
From the convoluted draw to unfair finals format, expansion alienated fans and tarnished a product once lauded for its wide appeal.
After much controversy three teams - the Cheetahs, Kings and Force - have been axed from next year's competition as Super Rugby attempts to restore credibility and win back its support base.
In an interview with the Herald on Sunday, Roux has laid bare the extent of Super Rugby's problems and detailed exactly why immediate change was needed.
"The broadcasters would have disinvested - that's the first step. The numbers were very clear. We get those every week and when you have a look there was an increase from Argentina and Japan but that was from a very low base.
"New Zealand was pretty flat with a little uptake in terms of broadcasting. Australia was a little up last year but then this year it was chaos. We knew we had to do something.
"We were significantly down and that's off a very high base. The broadcasters physically told us 'you need to do something about this competition it is not working'.
"The spectators were voting with their eyes and their feet. From a South African rugby point of view, if we kept going with this same competition and had to engage our broadcasters in the middle of 2019 like we normally do with the same product they would have probably paid us 25-40 per cent less than they are at the moment. Normally you are looking for 100 per cent uptake from your broadcasting.
"We were aware that would've broken the back of all of us and we would've not been sustainable."
Roux accepts South Africa drove expansion in order to retain six teams and protect the importance of the black community from Eastern Cape-based Kings.
Roux is hesitant about any future expansion.
"From a Super Rugby point of view we're in a better space. We all believe the 15-team product is going to save it."
A draft of next year's draw is with the franchises but it will feature three conferences of five teams, with the Sunwolves joining Australia and the Jaguares linking with South Africa.