The Uncertain Future of South African Rugby In 2021

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For the four major South African rugby franchises, uncertainty on the next direction in major rugby tournaments hangs in the balance at present. One of the deciding factors for the majority of South African rugby franchises is securing their key players on a long-term basis, due to more and more attractive offers coming from overseas.

Many talented key players in South Africa tend to further their rugby careers abroad to maximize their earnings as professional rugby athletes. National South African rugby franchises are mostly unable to compete with the strength of the currencies in Europe, therefore, it makes economic sense for young professional rugby players to accept more lucrative contracts away from home.

South African Super Rugby Franchise History:

South Africa has always been passionate Super Rugby supporters from the beginning, with the Transvaal (renamed to The Lions) side winning the Super 10 tournament, back in 1993. Since that triumph, there have been many close occasions South African rugby franchises have had, with The Sharks named tournament runner-ups in 1996, and 2001, respectively.

It was a long, anticipated wait for a South African rugby side to win the prestigious Super Rugby tournament; The Blue Bulls finally defeated the Sharks in Durban, in 2007. The Bulls then went on to defeat The Chiefs in 2009 and defended their crown in the following season, versus a gritty Stormers side. This led The Bulls to be labelled as the best South African Super Rugby franchise, with a cabinet of three trophies. The Lions have been unfortunate, however, ending as the tournament’s runners-up’s in three consecutive seasons, from 2016 to 2018.

Have the South African rugby franchises under-performed in Super Rugby considering their total wins of four times in the entire tournament’s history?

Super Rugby Tournament 2021 – New Format:

According to recent reports, this cancelled Super Rugby 2020 Season may have been the final tournament of which South African rugby franchises were due to partake in. The Super Rugby tournament will potentially reduce the number of sides to only the Trans-Tasmanian sides from Australia and New Zealand, respectively, though this is still not confirmed.

If this gets signed off for the 2021 season, the single sides from Argentina (Jaguares) and Japan (Sunwolves) will be omitted, along with the four major South African rugby franchises (Bulls, Lions, Sharks & Stormers). This would be an unfortunate series of events as they will most likely be unable to compare which Southern Hemisphere franchise is the best competitor, moving forward.

Do you agree with Super Rugby’s option of going in the direction of hosting only Australian and New Zealand rugby franchises?

The Future of South African Rugby Franchises:

Nothing has been confirmed as of yet on whether or not South African rugby franchises will continue their annual Super Rugby Tournament for the 2021 season. The Super Rugby Tournament was cancelled in 2020 and appears to be a non-in-void tournament, following the global Covid-19 pandemic.

With the uncertainty of Super Rugby hanging in the air, numerous offers have been presented to the top four South African rugby franchises; Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers. The vast majority of young South African rugby players are seen to be relocating overseas for their prospective rugby careers, and the PRO-14 tournament could be looking to accommodate other South African rugby sides by omitting the under-performing Cheetahs and Kings and introducing the major sides from South Africa, into the competition.

This option will offer better opportunity as games will be played in similar time zones, and travelling times to abroad fixtures will be reduced. The major benefit for the South African Rugby Union will be that they will sit in an ideal position to compare their locally-based players against those players who are applying their rugby trade abroad.

Would the European league be of a greater benefit to South African rugby, versus Super Rugby in the future?

Have a read here for more information on The Lions Tour 2021.

Writer’s Opinion:

As it stands, there are plenty of decisions South African rugby franchises would need to consider to ensure they continue participating in their respective annual rugby tournaments. As 2019 World-Cup winning champions, South Africa, are set to go into a new direction, the UK and Europe offer a different challenge, which will ultimately become a new, and potentially more exciting rugby tournament to come.

Will it be best to continue the Southern Hemisphere camaraderie with Australia and New Zealand or will the more lucrative offers from Europe persuade the South African rugby franchises to go up North?

What are your feelings about the future of South African rugby franchises? Let us know in the comments below and be sure to follow us on @worldinsport for more rugby-related news!

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