CAPE TOWN, South Africa - South Africa must have six clubs in Super Rugby from 2016 or it will "look north," South African Rugby Union President Oregan Hoskins says, a clear threat the country will approach European competition if the southern hemisphere can't accommodate its terms.
"If we don't have six teams, we might as well shut doors," Hoskins was quoted as saying by the South African Press Association and the Pretoria News in probably the strongest comments yet that SARU is willing to break up the 17-year-old southern hemisphere agreement that has been in place since rugby became openly professional.
South Africa was forced to relegate one of its teams in favour of another in 2012 after SANZAR, which sanctions international rugby in South Africa, New Zealand and Australia, refused to expand the three-nation, 15-team Super Rugby competition. All three countries have five clubs in Super Rugby.
That opened up SARU to fierce criticism at home when it dropped the Johannesburg-based Lions at the last minute after promising the new Port Elizabeth-based Southern Kings a Super Rugby place for 2013 without any guarantee of an expansion from SANZAR.