Rugby: Force, Rebels await decision on Super Rugby axe

Western Force players leave the field following the team's win in the Super Rugby match between Australia’s Western Force and South Africa’s Kings in Perth on April 9, 2017.
Western Force players leave the field following the team's win in the Super Rugby match between Australia’s Western Force and South Africa’s Kings in Perth on April 9, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

SYDNEY • Threatened franchises Western Force and Melbourne Rebels will know within three days who will be axed from the troubled Super Rugby, the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) said yesterday.

Governing body Sanzaar announced on Sunday that two South African teams and one from Australia would be culled from the revamped 2018 Southern Hemisphere tournament as it reverts to 15 teams amid financial losses and widespread fan discontent.

ARU chairman Cameron Clyne said both the Force and Rebels will be consulted before any decisions are made and that he supported Sanzaar's decision to cut a team.

He said the move was in the best interests of Australian rugby, with the franchises bleeding money.

The decision to axe either one means the ACT Brumbies, NSW Waratahs and Queensland Reds are safe and will be in next year's competition. Argentina's Jaguares and Japan's Sunwolves, a Singapore co-based outfit, were also spared.

"We don't anticipate this final consultation period being a drawn-out process and expect to be able to deliver an outcome in the very near future," Clyne said. "It is important for me to clarify that the decision to remove a Super Rugby team from Australia was a decision made by the ARU, not by Sanzaar."

The Rugby Union Players' Association chief executive Ross Xenos blasted the ARU. He said: "Having signed Australian rugby up to a competition which reduced local content, diluted tribalism and disrespected fans with its lack of integrity, ARU have now agreed to a new model which has protected the expansion teams in Argentina and Japan at the cost of one of our own.

"Despite receiving A$30 million (S$31.6 million) of additional annual broadcast revenue from 2016, the financial challenges of Australian rugby will likely be used to justify the short-sighted and ill-conceived decision which will limit the growth of rugby in Australia for generations to come."

South African Rugby has begun "internal consultations" to cut a team, with Port Elizabeth-based Kings and Bloemfontein side Cheetahs seen as most vulnerable.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 11, 2017, with the headline 'Force, Rebels await decision on Super Rugby axe'. Print Edition | Subscribe