Erasmus shrugs off SANZAR rejection
July 25, 2010
Former Springbok Rassie Erasmus and South African lawyer Frikkie Erasmus are the men behind the propposed International Super Rugby competition © Getty Images
Organisers of a proposed Twenty20-style rugby competition have vowed to continue with their plans to stage the tournament despite failing to attract the support of SANZAR.
International Super Rugby, the brainchild of former Springbok Rassie Erasmus and South African lawyer Frikkie Erasmus, has been styled on cricket's Indian Premier League with eight privately owned franchises competing for a lucrative cash prize. The format, set to debut in January 2012, would see matches with two 20-minute halves and amended rules to discourage kicking while it is hoped the scheduling, at a time normally reserved for conditioning ahead of the Super Rugby season, would ensure the participation of the game's biggest names.
The promoters recently met with officials of SANZAR, the umbrella body representing the national unions of South Africa, New Zealand and Australia, to outline their plans but failed to secure their backing with a statement citing an 'overwhelmingly negative' response from Super Rugby stakeholders.
However, speaking exclusively to ESPN Scrum, Frikkie Erasmus has dismissed the SANZAR rejection insisting that the presentation was a mere courtesy and their approval for the tournament was not required as it would feature, "a different code of rugby which does not fall under the jurisdiction."
"It was clear to me that they felt threatened by our format and were not supportive of the idea," Erasmus said of his meetings with Australian Rugby Union chief John O'Neill and his New Zealand counterpart Steve Tew that followed an earlier meeting with South African Rugby Union president Oregan Hoskins. "It therefore came as no surprise when they decided not to support it. As explained to them when I met with them, it was out of courtesy and not because their consents are required. It is a different code of rugby which does not fall under the jurisdiction of SANZAR or the IRB."
Erasmus' attempts to sell the perceived positives for Super Rugby fell on deaf ears but he insists the financial rewards available in the competition would help retain top players and prevent a talent drain to the northern hemisphere as well as keep players sharp in the off-season.
"We will continue with our plans to host the tournament. We believe that rugby needs an exciting format of this nature," added Erasmus. "Cricket's governing body had a problem initially with the IPL but in the end it succeeded and it is now a roaring success. There are just so many positives, that it is a great pity that a few individuals want to deprive the players of this opportunity."
Erasmus is confident player power and the support of sponsors will see the tournament come to fruition with the first competition set to benefit from the talent overhaul in the wake of Rugby World Cup 2011.
"In terms of player participation, there basically are two categories," explains the former Stormers' commercial manager. "The first category comprises those players who will retire from rugby after next year's World Cup and who will therefore not fall under the jurisdiction of any governing body and there are quite a large number of these top name players.
"The second category is those players that come out of contract with their unions, provinces and clubs at the end of the World Cup. When they negotiate renewal of their contracts, they will do so on the basis that they exclude the three week ISR (International Super Rugby) tournament period during January 2012, and the subsequent years. They will therefore be non-contract players for the three week period and/or have prior approval to take part.
"There will no doubt be severe player and player union pressure for the tournament to happen."
A bullish Erasmus also questioned the comments made by Tew, who is also the chief executive of SANZAR. "He said that the feedback from SANZAR's Super 14 teams was overwhelmingly negative but it would be interesting to know which teams were consulted, and in what manner. On checking with certain unions, it was denied that there was a discussion or even a request for feedback. And was full and unbiased information provided to those that were consulted?"
He also took Tew to task on the issue of player welfare - insisting that the tournament would not have a detrimental effect on the fitness of those taking part. "This aspect has been thoroughly researched and also discussed with the players themselves and with fitness and conditioning experts," added Erasmus.
"January is the month dedicated to fitness and conditioning preparation and for playing warm-up games. The physical activity during the tournament is less than that of the Super 14 preparation and warm-up games, because of the shortened format, extra subs and rule adjustments. It is in fact an ideal way of conditioning, according to the players and other fitness/conditioning specialists who are probably better equipped to decide, rather than the three SANZAR executives who decided on the players' behalf."