By CHRIS LAIDLAW
So an enlargement of the Super 12 is finally on the way.
After being pestered by the Australians more or less to exhaustion, it seems that the tsars of Sanzar are finally about to capitulate and grant the Aussies an extra franchise.
But is it really sensible simply to grant Australia and South Africa an extra place by enlarging the competition to 14 teams?
Or should Australia's ambitions be met by the sacrifice of one of the New Zealand franchises and the total number of competitors kept at 12?
The arguments in favour of a Super 14 involving five from New Zealand and South Africa, and four from Australia are pretty half-baked.
It would, of course, spread the available talent in the other two countries more thinly and that would have some superficial attraction to this country.
But is a bigger Sanzar competition the prime priority?
One impact is that it will suck even more money away from other, more pressing causes, most notably in the Pacific Islands and other southern countries such as Namibia and Zimbabwe, which are all going steadily broke. But that doesn't appear to cause Sanzar any sleepless nights at all.
At the same time, it would extend the length of a competition that many believe is too long already.
Wouldn't it be better to stick to 12 and rejig the existing format?
There has been stout resistance in this country to having to give up a team in order to get Australia up to parity.
But this resistance has been based on knee-jerk annoyance at Australian presumption for the most part rather than rational analysis of what New Zealand stands to win and lose in the event of that option being adopted.
Needless to say there is both upside and downside in a deal that reduces New Zealand representation from five to four teams.
The downside is obvious enough: fewer opportunities for New Zealand players to benefit from professional experience and the loss of one of the big brand identities of New Zealand sport with some disruption and a few redundancies.
Plenty of skin and hair would also fly over the choice of which franchise to axe and there would be plenty of scope for statistical argument over the viability of, for instance, keeping two South Island franchises.
None of these problems is insurmountable, however, and the prospect of at least two and possibly as many as four New Zealand franchises being technically insolvent within a year or two is a powerful incentive to consider some retrenchment.
A four-team New Zealand set-up would not only save a considerable sum of money, it would also serve to strengthen each of the remaining four, at least on paper, and reduce the overall number of professionals that are at present being fully funded by the New Zealand Rugby Union.
With the move to 30-man squads, the salary bill, already escalating, will be even higher. Let us hope that the trade-off for all this - the equalisation of international receipts - is really worth it.
Many will find it hard to be convinced.