6th team a waste of SARU clout

SANZAR boasting about Australian TV numbers for the S15 final that are a third of the size seen in SA for local league games shows our clout, but why waste it on a 6th team asks Tank Lanning in his Sport24 column?

R 2.9 million per game is the latest offer from one of the Japanese car companies masquerading as a rugby club trying to lure yet another South African player to the land of sushi.

At a mere 14 games per season (compared to the 16 or 19 that just Super Rugby demands of players), that works out to around R50 million for a sojourn that asks you to play in a league that probably sits in between the Vodacom and Currie Cup in standards!

Throw in what Toulon and other European clubs are offering in terms of salaries, and one gets a sense of the pressure that SANZAR are under in terms of putting together a product that allows them to generate the money needed to try and remain competitive.

With match day attendances dropping faster than I would fall down a mine shaft, and sponsorship being a way to cover costs rather than generate revenue, SANZAR rugby is all about the TV revenue. Jurie Roux, Steve Tew and Bill Pulver might think that they run the show, but the real bosses in the hunt for cash are SuperSport, SKY and Fox.

And all these guys want is content, and lots of it. In fact, SuperSport want enough live rugby content to be able dedicate an entire channel to it, and another to the magazine shows that can be created around it. Because content can then be sold to advertisers.

Hence Siyaya TV being willing to Hiroshima the piggy bank in order to secure the Bafana Bafana TV rights. And given that the live TV numbers do stack up, especially here in South Africa, sponsors and advertisers still see TV as the golden child.

Hence this bloated and seemingly endless current Super Rugby tournament, and hence this traumatically convoluted Super18 that is coming our way in 2016. It is all about generating more content so as to attract more TV dollars.

But it creates a dreadful Catch22 situation that is spiralling out of control. In reality, SANZAR are farting against thunder in trying to take on the likes of Toulon and the Japanese companies, but in trying to do so, they are creating a product so massive and so physically taxing on the players, that they are now not only being lured away by the bigger salaries, but also being pushed away by the very product being created to try and generate competitive salaries!

That said, this year’s Super Rugby final was a thing of real beauty, proving yet again that the more complete sides that include ball in hand rugby as part of their arsenal do prevail, and that finals do not need to be dull, defence first affairs.

Watched by a record 61 823 crowd, it was interesting to see SANZAR boasting about the TV numbers, though. 357 000 watched on Fox Sports in Australia, 319 000 watched on SKY Sport NZ while 298 000 watched it here on SuperSport.

More South Africans watched the Vodacom Cup final this year than Aussies watched the Super Rugby final with one of their sides in it! 945 000 South Africans watched a mere Sharks vs Bulls league game in February this year!

This is the kind of clout we have, and this year we used it not to try and intervene in this Catch22 downward spiral that is killing the golden goose, but instead to further stuff it up by demanding that we have a 6th team in the tournament next year. 4 out of 5 teams completely misfired this year, yet we demand a 6th to further stretch player resources already being made osmotic by the overseas player drain!

This of course, because we could not get it together to vote for the good of rugby, instead seeing our SARU General Council again vote for personal gain. It’s yet another suffocating Catch22 scenario in rugby – Commonly known as the “Turkeys voting for Christmas” syndrome. A syndrome that renders Jurie Roux a CEO managing the game with his hands tied behind his back.

These are dark times for rugby. Perhaps a beer with that egg white omelet this morning to lighten the load?



  1. Sho a lot said in short article. The big boss will always be Mr Dollar / Rand. It seems contract these days are also not what they use to be, players are getting of to easy. I dont know the detail but i suppose that they simply buy out or pay the penalties with the millions they will earn abroad. I apologize for going of topic a bit, but where have you ever seen a player walk out of the national squad in the middle of tournament because of a wage dispute. Call me old school but where i come from you use to shake hands to seal the deal and then regardless of what happens you keep your end of the bargain even if you are double crossed, it used to be a matter of pride and honor. I mean these Springboks earn so much they could bloody well play the WC for free as a thankyou to Saru and the Nation.

    1. This resonates with a fellow “Old schooler” James … But today is about maximising your earning potential in the short space you have to do so. SARU renaged on a certain part of a deal that saw FS give up a truly massive salary in France. he was rightfully bitter. No one person is bigger than the game though – Something I think Meyer does not always appreciate. I see injuries and non availability as an opportunity to give the next oke in line a chance to shine …

  2. A comment from Andre that was posted on my “Contact us” page but relates to the above post, and one that I think is hugely relevant, and adds a fresh perspective:

    Hi Tank.

    Like your column.

    Your recent post “What a waste of SARU clout” is interesting. I would just like to draw your attention to a contention of Noam Chomsky on the matter of CONTENT and FILLER with respect to television.

    He contends that in this case, the “content” would be advertising and that rugby would be “filler”.

    This gives one the perspective to see why the players are treated as a commodity, used ruthlessly and discarded if injured.

    Keep up the interesting discussions.



Comments are closed.