Rumours infest rugby and prey on the sporting media. They can be a "reward" for compliant reporters or a diversion to distract prying journalists, there are carefully placed leaks designed to deliver maximum impact, information to soften an unwanted effect or half-truths to unsettle rivals.

In this social media age of instant bulletins and public newsflashes, there is greater scope to widen the medium is the message which author Marshall McLuhan used in his work in the sixties.

World Rugby has chosen to ignore any avenue since Romain Poite refereed the final All Blacks-Lions test to its undignified conclusion.

This weekend is the merciful end of section play in Super Rugby when the draw for the playoffs is confirmed and we can get into some hearty sudden-death contests while the rest drift away to whatever the future holds for them.


Sanzaar has decreed the 2018 series will be a 15 team competition in three conferences and the Cheetahs and Kings have been excised from South Africa with either the Force or Rebels in Australia set to join them on the exit runway. Both have held firm against attempts to remove them as another concept has pushed into the possibilities.

The Sharks are at the core of this notion. The Durban-based side sits in 8th place on the points table and is set for a quarterfinal duel with either the Crusaders or Lions. After that who knows. They could earn another week on the tournament or kiss the competition goodbye - forever.

While that idea seems fanciful from a foundation Super Rugby side, there are threads of logic.

The Sharks are not sold on the idea of reverting to round-robin play because they would be forced to travel to New Zealand and play some of those teams after avoiding that schedule this year.

They feel a change of plans to link up with rugby tournaments in Europe may be a better fit for their players, their sponsors and also an improved timeframe for their television audience. Under the South African Rugby Union rules, players involved with clubs in Europe are not banned from representing the Boks.

If the Sharks chose to join the Cheetahs and Kings and exit Super Rugby, that would offer a reprieve for both the Force and Rebels in Australia while the Sunwolves would stay with the South African conference alongside the Jaguares, Bulls, Lions and and Stormers.

Far-fetched, fanciful or implausible? Maybe but so was the four conference expansion to 18 teams and nobody thought a referee would change his mind in a rugby test either. Apparently no one near the helm of the Australian Rugby Union saw any significant impediments in trimming one of their franchises.

When Sanzaar opted to trim the teams, chief executive Andy Marinos said it was an inevitable and necessary consequence of falling attendances and television viewers. The revised 15 team format will run until the end of the 2020 deal and if they can make that mid-contract change, why not another revision?


If the exit-concept about the Sharks does not fly, the heat on Australia to torch one of their teams will intensify and everyone should use the shambles around the current format as a warning for the future of Super Rugby.