There's an old saying New Zealand Rugby might find soothing right now: 'Life is a shipwreck but we mustn't forget to sing in the lifeboats'.
Poor old NZR's lifeboats are taking in water. They've upset almost everybody it is possible to upset after pursuing their weird take on gunboat diplomacy – ending up alone and wet, like a shag on a rock.
Talking of rocks, if you believe diplomacy is the art of saying "Nice doggie" until you can find a decent rock, then even the most diplomatic conclusion is that NZR managed to wield the rock first and then said "Nice doggie".
But, even though they have come up with an ugly Frankenstein-ish "solution" for Super Rugby in 2022, it's possible to feel a bit sorry for them. It's not easy to do things this badly, you know.
If the assembled scorn of the media isn't enough, the rugby man in the street will be deeply puzzled too. Why is a Pasifika team not about to play in Super Rugby and who the hell are the South China Lions – apparently based in the Bay of Plenty, containing several Mitre 10 Cup players and coached by Sir Gordon Tietjens…?
The NZR has taken the worst possible leaf out of the Warriors' PR handbook: promise the earth every year; deliver a packet of broken biscuits instead. They have attempted to beat up on the Australians (in a weak position by not yet having a broadcast deal) but have ended up looking like the dumb school bully who can't spell "compromise".
As far as a Pasifika team is concerned, I hate to tell you I told you so when it comes to their disappointment, but I did, about two months ago. They might well be, as NZR maintain, up for a few hidings in their first year but Super Rugby has seen other franchises grow after difficult introductions; you have to start somewhere.
The Pasifika bids have failed so far because they haven't put enough money on the table. Most insiders said early on that the only way a Pasifika team could enter Super Rugby was if it was bankrolled by NZR, treated as a sixth New Zealand franchise – and NZR has baulked at the cost.
So they've come up with their half-baked solution for 2021 and 2022. Next year will see Super Rugby Aotearoa again, plus a final and possibly crossover matches with the five Australian teams – provided, of course, the Aussies stop hating NZR long enough to consider this.
In 2022, NZR is considering adding three extra teams, among them a Pasifika side, the Fijian Drua (who play in the second-string Australian national rugby championship) and two teams bankrolled by or connected with West Australian billionaire Andrew "Twiggy" Forest – the Western Force and the South China Lions, a joint venture with China but to be based in the Bay of Plenty, with several Mitre 10 Cup players from five different unions.
Now the South Africans are thinking of slinking off to the northern hemisphere, this "solution" looks about as compelling as a puddle of dog sick. It makes you yearn for the good old Super Rugby days when the Kings played the Cheetahs in the middle of the night and no one cared.
Still, we can feel genuinely sorry for NZR; no one is losing the chance to slipper them in the kidneys – as South African Rugby CEO Jurie Roux did this week, claiming it was New Zealand's fault the Bok Super Rugby franchises have opted to go elsewhere.
I call hogwash on this. Covid-19 has been just a little bit of a bother and, for much of the last seven or eight years, stories have come out of South Africa showing they have been sniffing round northern hemisphere competitions like Cecil the ram. Now they have finally chosen to explore that.
So Roux is trying to be judge, Jurie and executioner on this one – probably to forestall backlash from traditional South African rugby fans not keen on weakening the national rugby gene pool by only playing against club teams from Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Italy.
Many Bok rugby fans will fear the effect such a move will have on the Springboks if the formative rugby for international players does not include New Zealand, Australia, English or French sides. They'll be figuring that, out of nine World Cups, the northern hemisphere has won only one – so it's a bit like dropping out of Harvard to work in the local corner dairy.
So Roux is getting his retaliation in first and providing a scapegoat. Many Kiwis will miss the old rivalry, sorry to see the end of South African teams in Super Rugby. The brutal truth is they have not often been a real force. In 24 years, South African sides have won the competition three times.
But we have our own problems. It's to be hoped that NZR rights the ship (they still have time) but, if the singing from the lifeboats gets louder, we'll all know what's happened.