Introducing, the Rhinos!

Tank Lanning

The Cats were a disaster, and I do not see that working … ever. How about a new Soweto based franchise called the Rhinos?

As said a few times here on The Grunt, I strongly recommend a return to the Super 12 with the top 4 Currie Cup sides qualifying to play Super Rugby the next year. Not even New Zealand has the depth to support 5 competitive Super Rugby franchises in the current format, which is more of a survival course than a rugby tournament …

But TV money, rather than common sense, seems to drive SANZAR, so I do not see that happening any time soon, and certainly not before 2015, when the current SANZAR commercial deal expires …

So if we can’t have that, how about something completely different? And something that could actually happen given that it is SARU that determines the 5 sides that represent South Africa in Super Rugby …

FACT – The Kings are here to stay, and will play Super Rugby next year. We are thus guaranteed some change … Why not make it radical?

Introducing … the Rhinos!
Playing out of FNB stadium in Soweto, the Rhinos would primarily contract players from the Lions and Cheetahs, but not exclusively, and both the Lions and Cheetahs would remain individual entities in Vodacom and Currie Cup.

The Cats did not know whether they were Lions or Cheetahs as they played out of both bases and utilized staff from both unions … The Rhinos would have a new, separate base and administrative staff … And most importantly contract players and coaches independently.

Picture Nick Mallett as the coach, and R5 from every ticket sold going to saving the real rhino …

It would be quite fun to have two completely new franchises in Super Rugby next year … Certainly things would be livened up a little, and my word, does it need it!

Of course there would be obstacles, and perhaps a few existing Cheetahs and Lions players might even choose not to play Super Rugby in this guise, but that would be their call … And a decision they might want to make after chatting to their bank manager … or agent!

The Kings are a unique entity and need to be treated as such. Rules need to be enforced to see them become properly Eastern Cape based and staffed, thus keeping that region’s talent in the Eastern Cape. They will need time as a Super Rugby franchise to achieve that …

To just jettison the Lions (as SA’s worst performers in the tournament) from Super Rugby is an option, but a pretty harsh one. And keeping them alive so they can play a promotion / relegation match against the worst performing side at the end of 2013 is ridiculous on two fronts … 1) We cannot sustain 5 franchises, let alone a 6th who will not even be playing, and 2) To give the kings just a single season to perform at Super Rugby level is asking the impossible of them, and unfair.

Enter stage right, then, the Rhinos, which has to be seen and treated as a new franchise who can recruit from anywhere, rather than a merger of the Cats and Lions.

Any sort of real franchise is fraught with danger here in SA given our time in the rugby international wilderness, when provincialism got so ingrained, but perhaps a move to what the Kiwis are doing in terms of the Super Rugby franchises being separate to the provincial unions is worth exploring now that we have grown up a little?

We would come close to such an entity with the Kings (EP, SWD and Border), Stormers (WP and Boland), Rhinos (Cats and Cheetahs), and Bulls (Blue Bulls, Leopards and Pumas), while the Sharks call from only one team in any case.

The Rhinos, based at FNB stadium, would also be a fantastic opportunity to run a franchise as a professional business, staffed with forward thinking professionals, rather than an amateur council exco, who tend to don those old gravy stained blazers …

Black Rhinos or White Rhinos? Quite cool that they could be just rhinos, free of any colour issues!

I realise that the SA rugby league team is already called the Rhinos, but with league being so small in SA, I am pretty sure the new Super Rugby franchise would usurp the name in a matter of weeks. But if one wanted to play nice, the new franchise could include the public in coming up with a name … Soweto Power, Warriors, Scorchers, or Assegai would all work for me …

Yes, it’s new and different, and would involve a fair amount of change, but sometimes new is good!

NB – The above image was obtained via a Google search and is NOT intended to represent the logo for the new franchise. In fact, it is an existing logo for a motorcycle stand!


  1. I think thats a great idea, with all the current furor around Rhino poaching it wont be hard to generate a national fan base to support such a team. And you are right, Mallet is not too busy at the moment!!! Im behind it………………

  2. Brilliant Tank. Best rugby idea I have heard since changing the Stormers jersey from a rainbow of vomit to a solid dark colour.

  3. Isn’t that just a Cats team with a new name and a home stadium a couple of kms from Ellis Park?

    We’ve got to stop thinking about the Currie Cup as a qualifier for Super Rugby. The Springbok squad hardly get a chance to play in it, so it actually penalises the team with the most Springboks, which is usually the best team. If the original S12 system was still in place, the Bulls would have been left out this year. Now look who’s top of the table.

    1. The point re the Currie Cup in it’s current guise not being useful for indicating who the Super Rugby teams is a good one. But we simply cannot have a 6th Super rugby side waiting around to play a promotion / relegation match. It would just be a waste of talent and money. So if we come up with a final solution re who the five teams should be, and that might include the Rhinos, then we no longer need that …

  4. I like the out of the box thinking, but disagree with removing the Lions and Cheetahs. Well as a Cheetah supporter, I will lose all interest in SR if they remove my team. It will destroy Currie Cup for us as well, since we will not be able to source / keep any good players. All the good ones will go play SR at other franchises.
    Everyone tends to forget, we only had since 2006 to build up our SR union. We are now hanging around close to mid table and keeping some bigger names who want to grow with our small union.
    Teams like the Bulls had since 1996 to develop their unions. I use the Bulls as they are thus far the most successful SA union. The Bulls inn their first 7 years finished 4th and 8th in year 1 and 2 respectively then twice they finished 11th and 3 times they finished 12th. This was still S12, so they finished dead last 3 times!!

    To not afford the Cheetahs, or Lions for that matter, this development opportunity is unfair in my opinion.

  5. Tank please tell all I came up with the idea of the Rhinos as the name and that % of profit goes to anti poaching

    1. Hi Stephan. More than happy to admit that I read about the name and money going to stopping rhino poaching on Twitter. If that was you, then it’s all yours and I thank you. Pretty sure the idea round the team being based in Soweto, and all the rest is mine though 🙂 And given that the name belongs to the SA League side, it might not be able to be used, sadly. Apologies re lack of initial credit, but had no idea of who posted the initial Tweet …

  6. Interesting thought bru… I like it, but I wonder if those up country will. Def something for the think tank, Tank.

  7. I agree with Abri. But let’s look at some other facts – to take it away from the Cheetah’s (the only team that really uses players from all the sub-unions) would be unfair. They have been playing good rugby impressing all over. The only franchise that openly only uses players from their main union are the Sharks – and that I believe is wrong – it defeats the purpose of the franchise system and to have other franchises that uses all that is available to them pay the price would be wrong – so rather combine the Lions and the Sharks, the Lions and the Kings or the Sharks and the Kings, but leave the Cheetahs to continue growing their game and young players.
    Let’s be honest, if the move is made to the FNB stadium, it would be mostly Lions players because that will still be home for them as opposed to the Cheetahs and other players that would have to move there, away from their home unions and play every game as an away player in a home team? Not fair to them to have to spend that much time away from their wives, girlfriends and family (not talking a four week tour, but a February to August season).

    1. Yep, all very solid points from both you and Abri, and as said in the post, there would be serious difficulties to overcome …

      I love the brand of rugby that the Cheetahs are playing, and look forward to watching them play, but to be honest, the player pool is basically one very good school and a good university, and I am not sure that is ever going to generate enough depth to really challenge for the title. There also seems to be a limit to the amount of money and sponsorship that can be generated given how small the area is … So this might be as good as it is going to get?

      Not completely averse to your Sharks and Lions amalgamation … With the Bulls and Cheetahs then pulling from the “North” … But that would have to be based in Durban and players would have to move … Same as for the Cheetahs and the Rhinos …

      1. Have to agree with the two Cheetah fans, and also I agree with your statement Tank, but…. The Sharks, Bulls and to some extend the Stormer, all have their long fingers into Grey. Throwing a spanner in the works, where would the Cheetahs be, if they were able to keep all the boys? Besides that, they are the only Union to use ALL or ANY of the other unions in the Franchise. You dont see any Puma/Leopard in the Bulls team? Neither any Bolander in the Stormers setup. Not to mention the Sharks, and this will be the same for the Kings. Know some SWD guys, and clearly they are not welcome in the Kings setup.
        That is why he Griekwas have so many Ex-Bolanders in their team, they want a fair chance to play Super Rugby. Taking all of this into consideration, why dont SARU/SARFU rather push funds into a franchise who clearly is doing things the right way? Brings us back to politcis + Kings, but that is a different topic.

  8. Nice one Tank.

    But why stop at the Rhinos?

    What you are basically suggesting above is de-franchise the Lions and Cheetahs (who will still operate as unions in the Currie Cup) but I say why not de-franchise the whole bloody lot?

    The franchise system caters for a ‘region’ based solution to have the top teams and players in that region compete at in an international competition. The moment the big 5 unions ‘attached’ themselves to the franchises as the senior, ney, sole owners, paying out their smaller partners some money for their/no effort – is the moment this concept went tits up.

    5-regionally based INDEPENDENT (from existing rugby unions) franchises need to be established or awarded franchise licenses.

    The board and company of these franchises should not serve on the board of any union in SA, and the coaches are to be appointed by SA Rugby where no franchise coach may coach a union team.

    Once awarded a franchise license, these companies then bid for regions they want to call home or establish a home base of which 5 regions are available. Gauteng, East Coast, Central, Western Cape and Southern Cape.

    The bid will be made to the town (municipal district) and union/owner of the ground they wish to use. This also means that if the Central union representing that region wants to be based at the FNB stadium for commercial reasons why the hell not?

    The unions ‘represented’ by the franchises will still make up a majority of the players allowed to be contracted with a minimum number of say 25 of that regions team’s and an allowance to contract a further 10 players from anywhere else ignored by their franchise or from overseas.

    Unions still get their ‘pay-outs’ from the franchise (minimum guaranteed amount) and also depending on amount of players contracted.

    Yes I know I am moving to a central contracting or draft system here but it is workable.

    Point is, unions might be 120 years old and more, franchises have only been around since 1996.

    If we are going to de-franchise the Lions and Cheetahs, do the same with WP, Bulls and Sharks (to a lesser extent).

    1. Yes indeed Morne … I like this a lot. Been a fan of central contracting for a long time and have been suggesting that SARU use it for a while … This is very much along the lines of the Kiwi system, and I think it works well. Hence them being able to put franchises out to tender, which would be the obvious way to start these “New” franchises, and bring in pro staff …

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