Dump the Boks! South Africa travel is ‘torture’
Cutting South Africa adrift and embracing Asia is the way to save southern hemisphere rugby and stop the "torture" of our best players, Wallabies great Michael Lynagh has declared.
While the South Africans have a longstanding relationship with Australia and New Zealand under the SANZAAR alliance, Lynagh believes that the partnership could dissolve when the next broadcast deal - still being negotiated in Australia - expires at the end of 2025.
Lynagh said Australian and Kiwi players are being physically imperilled by the travel demands of the Super Rugby model that has them playing games in up to five different time zones, and pointed to mining magnate Andrew "Twiggy" Forrest's new competition as breaking ground for the future.
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"Rugby is divided at the moment between northern and southern hemisphere - until South Africa goes up into Europe, in the same time zone, then New Zealand and Australia into the (Pacific) Islands and up into Asia.
"Japan is proving people want that," Lynagh said.
"Global Rapid Rugby is doing that now, so it's a footprint I think that is important for the future. If it can pave the way, which I think it will, that's good.
"Those time zones are much easier on player welfare. You don't have to travel Sydney to Cape Town back to Christchurch to Buenos Aires then up to Japan. It's ridiculous. It's not sustainable.
"They talk about player welfare - that's not player welfare, that's torture, it really is.
"And you've got time zones where the Waratahs are playing in Cape Town at 3am Sydney time, nobody watches it. People can't understand the system and how it works.
"The Super 12 worked because it was home and away, the semis and a final. People understood it.
"So I do believe that needs a rethink on how that works."
Rugby Australia is now negotiating a new television deal beyond 2020 with Fox Sports, although given their recent history of bidding for sports, Optus should also be making a play for the rights.
It's understood the new deal will not feature the National Rugby Championship, and the future of the Australian domestic scene remains unclear, although Sydney and Brisbane clubs have shown there is deep interest in their competitions.
As for life beyond that deal, Lynagh believes Australia can tap into new financial markets in Asia given resources have been tapped out here and across the ditch, while South Africa already has a foot in each camp, with teams playing in Super Rugby and in the European tournaments.
"I think South Africa into Europe," Lynagh said.
"New Zealand need a strong Australia, or they become the Harlem Globetrotters and play in whatever stadium takes them.
"New Zealand has 4.5/5 million people. They can't sustain five provincial teams and an All Blacks team that are beating everyone by 70 points. Nobody wants to see that. Sport is the only business in the world where monopoly isn't a good thing.
"As soon as New Zealand start beating us by 60-70 points in provincial games or the All Blacks (in Tests), even New Zealanders start losing interest in watching that. Australia's got to be strong, New Zealand needs that.
"Then you go into the islands and up into Asia. It's all the same time zone more or less. It's easier on players, people can watch it. A huge population base in Asia, in Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia.
"As long as it's structured properly, that's where I see it would go."
It's understood New Zealand is opposed to ditching South Africa, given they are more competitive at the moment than Australia, while Kiwi coaches like having their players acclimatise to the high altitude.