Franchise or provincial model?

Tank Lanning, in his Sport24 column, compares a provincial model that sees the Currie Cup feed Super Rugby, to a Kiwi type model that sees central contracting deliver equally strong franchises.

Tank Lanning

Never, ever did I think I would miss those comments at the base of my columns on Sport24! But at least one had a sense of being read … along with being reminded of how fat, stupid and biased I am, of course.

Twitter is the new comments section, I suppose, so not to worry if you thought I was not being informed of the latter often enough.

One of a columnist’s jobs is to inspire debate, though, so it was great to get a whole bunch of feedback to my suggested rugby calendar column of last week. Two of which I reckon are worth Accenture – the management consulting firm appointed by SANZAAR to try and rectify the current horror show – taking a gander at.

Andre de Waal (via a comment on a post) would split the tournament into three divisions (Premiership, Championship and Development) with 8 teams in each. Six new teams would then join the Development Division from the likes of America, the Pacific Islands, Asia, or even Europe.

The teams in the same division would play each other in a home and away double, with the top 4 of the Premiership contesting the semi-finals and then Grand Final.

That same weekend would see the bottom three of the Premiership play promotion/relegation matches against the top three of the Championship, perhaps even including an automatic promotion/relegation for the top and bottom teams respectively.

The same would happen in terms of the Championship and Development divisions, with the bottom team in the Development division having to play any new teams wanting to join the tournament – as decided by a tender process.

I think it ticks a lot of boxes – producing lots of game time that broadcasters demand, tapping into new markets, maintaining a Quality vs Quality angle that has gone AWOL, and giving teams (along with their fans) that are lower on the log something to play for.

Enrico Oosthuizen (via email) suggests something a little different, and something that takes cognisance of the Currie Cup, which I really like.

He reckons we need to have our best players playing their best rugby throughout the season, but that the season is currently too long, features a ridiculous Super Rugby format, and disregards the Currie Cup.

Enrico proposes that we follow the European Football model where competitions are run concurrently, but get separate windows, and are not played on the same days. The EPL mixes with the FA Cup as well as the UEFA tournaments. And in between that there are the International windows where no other domestic games are played.

Teams thus plan and manage their players accordingly.

So the Currie Cup would take the role of the EPL/La Liga/Bundesliga with the focus on local teams, this being the premier domestic tournament. Younger players would get their chance here, teams plan to have their key players available for the big matches.

Super Rugby would thus take on a role similar to the UEFA Champions League, and handled in one of three ways:

  1. Split into two tiers and handled in a similar way to Andre’s suggestion above.
  2. Split into two tiers but instead of promotion/regulation, the domestic competitions like the Currie Cup and ITM Cup decide which teams play in what tier.
  3. A World Cup format that sees teams split into 4 pools with the top 2 in each pool progressing to a play-off phase.

The Rugby Championship and incoming tour Tests then get played in between on allocated Test weekends.

Both are really interesting and have their merits. I like the idea of the Currie Cup being a qualifier for Super Rugby, but if we can get central contacting right, then the franchise model will strengthen Springbok rugby like it has done for the All Blacks in New Zealand.

Two things we most certainly need to leave space for, though, are a Rugby Champs winners vs Six Nations winners Test, along with a Super Rugby winners vs European Cup winners game. All Black coach Steve Hansen is spot on with this call!


  1. Here’s a comment for you Tank, just so you know someone is reading! Always enjoy your writing and the points of discussion that you raise.

  2. Holy sh!t, a real journalist likes my idea!!

    I don’t suppose you have any friends in Sanzaar Tank?


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