Sanzaar remains ‘strong’, but Super Rugby still up in the air

New Zealand Rugby seemed to have already taken the decision to pull out of Super Rugby in recent weeks, while South Africa were looking at throwing in their lot with a European competition.

Australia, meanwhile, were desperately trying to stay joined with their Kiwi neighbours, while Argentina were probably willing to hang on to whatever scraps they could get.

But Marinos disagreed with the current narrative that Sanzaar’s partners were all trying to jump ship.

“We are busy working through our 2021 plans, but the whole return-to-play is not easy to navigate. You have product A and then 24 hours later you have to change to product B,” Marinos said in an SA Rugby Legends webinar on Saturday.

“The challenge is cross-border rugby because of all the government and medical controls and access to flights. We have to be realistic: The individual unions are responsible for keeping rugby alive and sustainable in each of their markets and then they can look at the feasibility of cross-border competition.

“But we are working through this as a joint venture. A round-robin structure next year is not looking that optimistic because flying won’t be that easy yet, but there is a strong acknowledgement that cross-border rugby needs to be in place in the future.

“Playing against players from other countries only makes our nations stronger internationally. That’s what has allowed the Sanzaar nations to be the dominant force in world rugby.”

The former Stormers and Wales centre denied that there was anything wrong with Super Rugby as a product, and he felt the attacking nature of the competition had played a major role in the success of the four Sanzaar nations at the World Cup.

“The impact on the bottom line has been significant but it’s not because of poor delivery or a lack of quality or interest in the product,” Marinos said.

“I would unashamedly say we have some of the best players in the world and we’ve seen that at the World Cup. The strength we’ve got is that the toughness of the competition and the global expansion of Super Rugby means our players are used to adapting to different conditions and being on the road for long periods.

“The Northern Hemisphere players don’t have that benefit, they have one-hour flights and they’re away for a weekend. The conditions we play under, plus the fact we put more air on the ball, there’s a very attacking mindset and the teams are as positive as possible, has played a significant role in the World Cup results.

“And with New Zealand and Australia playing again, we have seen an upturn in people coming back to the game, and Super Rugby can start regenerating itself.”

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