SA Rugby’s eyes wide shut on Super bid


Tony McKeever gives us his views on SA Rugby’s bid for the 15th franchise up for grabs in the new expanded Super 15 which will launch in 2011.

Originally published on

The decision as to which franchise gets the 5th Australian based and 15th Super Rugby franchise, will be announced on the 21st October by SANZAR. This has not been a simple bid process in which prospective Super Rugby franchise teams simply respond to the criteria of the bid document in a free and fair selection process, which the press releases trotted out by SA Rugby &; the ARU would have you believe about their respective “compelling” bid presentations, state of readiness, financial sustainability and player pool.

There is a more complex, dare I say, sinister, cunning and very naive approach towards selecting an additional Super Rugby franchise to participate in the Super 15 tournament from 2011-2015 and you can decide for yourself which labels can be attributed to which union. This is why.

Sooner, rather than later, it will be revealed that the South African rugby administrators tasked with upholding and increasing the value of SA Rugby’s intellectual rugby properties in the international and Southern Hemisphere rugby markets, were duped spectacularly and succumbed to the Australian and New Zealand agendas, so much so, that they will ultimately be responsible for the failure of South Africa to acquire the 15th Super Rugby franchise.

It also speaks volumes in endorsing that age old legendary Mafiosi statement, “that you do not bring a knife to a gun fight”, which is what SA Rugby did. And there are two reasons for this that are and will be fatal to the submission of the Southern Kings bid.

The first, is that in 2008 the ARU championed and sold the 3-conference Super 15 Rugby system of 5 Super Rugby Teams for each of the South African, New Zealand and Australian rugby unions, from 2011-2015. This was “sold” to all at SANZAR, under the pretext it is more cost effective, involves less travelling (which SA Rugby was always on about) and especially that local derbies attract higher gate attendances which is key to the fans and especially the paymaster Newscorp & SuperSport vis a vis increased viewership for their advertisers.

Then, the second and most lethal reason, is the agreement signed off by SA Rugby, in May, in which Marinos the Acting MD for SA Rugby & Hoskins the President of SA Rugby, in Dublin, unanimously agreed with SANZAR, to a 3-way split of the Super Rugby broadcast revenues, because each of the SANZAR partners would now have 5 Super rugby teams apiece in each of the 3-conferences.

This had to be agreed upon before going into the proposal to Newscorp regarding extending the broadcast agreement through till 2015.

Quite apart from this drop in share of broadcast revenues, for SA Rugby, from 38% to 33.3% which represents a loss of R10m over five years to each of SA Rugby’s 14 unions, for a total of R150m, it also means that this revenue now fills the treasuries of the NZRU & ARU to the tune of R150m, which in time will come back to haunt SA Rugby for years to come.

In essence that is a spectacular R300m blunder by SA Rugby, in that they shed R150m and that the R150m “donation” went to SA Rugby’s arch rivals. That 3-way split deal between the SANZAR partners, is now etched and reflected into the Newscorp broadcast deal, which sets the precedent in the signed off Super Rugby documents, that ensures that each of the SANZAR unions gets an equal 3 way split of the revenues because each has 5 teams in the Super 15 tournament with 3 conferences.

It is a travesty and of great sadness, that in over 5 years, which is a lifetime for a rugby player, that all the 200,000 Southern & Eastern Cape rugby players, at over 900 schools and over 450 rugby clubs, have had their hopes raised and dashed and raised again, as it is almost certainly game over for the Southern Kings, participating in the Super 15 from 2011-2015, as they have been scripted out by SANZAR. Had Marinos & Hoskins in May tabled the same cooing rationale why the Southern Kings should be included in the Super 15, as they did in their effusive release Friday, which also happens to be the exact reasons and basis for hanging on to SA Rugby’s rightful 38% share of the broadcast revenues and not conceding the 5% and 5th Super Rugby franchise to Australia, SA Rugby would not be in this predicament.

The self same reasons SA Rugby offered up for the “compelling” bid for the 15th Super Rugby franchise, were as valid in June 2005 when the 6th South African Super Rugby franchise was created, as much as they are now.

This did not happen overnight or in the last 5 years, but it has and SA Rugby has spent tens of millions of Rands excluding the Southern & Eastern Cape from having a Super Rugby franchise.

But here is the real trouble. I have no doubt that the 60 page Southern Kings presentation is as good as the SA Rugby 2015 & 2019 Rugby World Cup Bid document ,as it is the same SA Rugby crew that submitted that presentation, who also did the Southern Kings Bid and we know what happened there.

Only it is not about the document, it is all about having the vision, the savvy, the nous, the street smarts and a deck of intelligence to get to “YES”. The ARU & NZRU have it and SA Rugby had the wrong negotiators around the table.

They capitulated, conceded and bowed to pressure to the detriment of rugby in South Africa. But what happens if and when the Southern Kings lose out to Melbourne on the 21st October? Who stays and who goes? The Cheetahs? The Lions? Do the Pumas, Griquas and Leopards drop out of the Currie Cup to make it a 6 team format comprising the 6 Franchises only?

I can surely describe a sequence of predictable events and outrage that will occur, but what it does show is that SA Rugby has not planned for this eventuality and fall out and established a hands on competent crisis management team that will surely have to defuse the conflict that is about to erupt and be waged amongst SA Rugby’s 14 unions, SA Rugby Pty Ltd, the 6 Super Rugby franchises, government, provincial government, broadcasters and sponsors.

There will be no arbitration if Melbourne wins, as SA Rugby themselves agreed to and endorsed a 3-conference, 5 team format for each of the SANZAR partners and that was basically “signed off” and cast in stone, by the unanimous SANZAR 3 way revenue split of the broadcast revenues of the Super 15 TV proposal, which has already been submitted to Newscorp.

The kicker in all of this is that all of this was sanctioned and agreed to by SANZAR’s CEO, who happens to be none other than the self same Acting MD of SA Rugby, Andy Marinos.

The buck stops there. If there is any opposition, from SA Rugby to Melbourne winning the 15th Franchise I can hear O’Neill of the ARU and Tew of the NZRU, saying: “But Andy you as SANZAR CEO agreed to this and signed off on this last year and again in May and it was made a condition of the Expression of Interest and it is included in the broadcast deal to Newscorp.”

You see Marinos & Hoskins should have made it conditional in May this year that SA Rugby gets to keep its 38% share of the revenues and that the 6th South African franchise be the 15th Super Rugby team.

SA Rugby should have dropped in their own conditions and riders to retain & increase revenue and especially to ensure that the 6th Southern & Eastern Cape franchise is included, given the sheer size of SA Rugby’s own market, which is more than twice the combined NZRU & ARU rugby markets.

Instead O’Neill knows he now has R75m coming the ARU’s way from 2011-2015 that will assist the Melbourne Super 15 and the other R75m is incentive enough for Tew of the NZRU to back O’Neill on this.

Two to one on voting and glances to the head of the table in the direction of Marinos, who not only agreed to this, endorsed it and signed off on this. The trajectory of these decisions will negatively impact SA Rugby deep into the future unless an immaculate solution is found to embrace the 6th South African franchise and remove conflict and mayhem in South African rugby.

Having spelled out the most likely scenario to face South African rugby on the 21st October, there still is the immaculate solution to remedy SA Rugby’s Super Rugby dilemma and rid it of this perpetual conflict and cannibalism and that solution is simple.

Super Rugby Factoids:

* Rugby in the southern hemisphere, especially in the SANZAR countries, is principally driven by the capital infusion from Newscorp, which buys the broadcast rights from SANZAR for the Super Rugby Super 14 series, Tri-Nations and British & Irish Lions Tours. These rights are then syndicated out to countries around the world so Newscorp recoups its investment and then profits from the selling of on-air advertising in various markets.

* This in essence is the financial bedrock on which SA Rugby, New Zealand and Australia build or run their domestic games because a large percentage of the cash then trickles down from the parent union to the respective provincial unions.

* South Africa has been in the losing stakes of negotiations from start to finish as there were the 2006-2010 terms and conditions set in 2004, which were agreed that year and also set the precedent for the division of the broadcast revenues for the Super 14 competition et al. They were entirely and conveniently disregarded by the Australian and New Zealand unions, who railroaded their agendas through and around the SA Rugby delegates, who will be caught in the halogen headlights on October 21 2009 when the 5th Australian based Franchise is announced.

* SANZAR, the three-nation grouping of South Africa, New Zealand and Australia, which runs the Super 14 competition, boasted a 25% increase in revenues on the old contract when announcing a new TV rights deal late in 2004.

* The original $555 million 10-year deal signed when rugby union went professional was structured to compound by 7% annually, rising to $82 million in the final year, yet when the new five-year contract of $323 million was announced for the 2006-2010 Super Rugby tournament, the SA Rugby Union declined to say it was actually less than the final five years of the old deal.

* The current broadcast deal, as well as SA Rugby’s Super Rugby Franchise Participation Agreement with its six franchises, expires on May 30 of the 2010 season.

* This meant that Sanzar’s new and proposed competition structure was scheduled to be in the hands of one of the rights holders, News Limited, by June 30 and they were in turn, to respond with a counter offer by August 31. That offer came in an e-mail from Newscorp on Friday night August 27, so negotiations are well under way around the 3 conference of 5 teams each.

* South Africa contributed more than 50% of the revenues to the SANZAR partnership, and should rightfully be entitled to at least 38% share of the broadcast sponsorship revenues. Proportionately NZRU and ARU each received 32% and 29% respectively of the revenues, which was the precedent set in 2004.

* SA Rugby should have asked for and received, a greater percentage than 38%, as their delivery of rugby inventory and broadcast value is far greater than New Zealand and Australia combined.

Consider the following Club & Registered Player numbers:

1. South Africa: 1010 clubs and 512,000 registered rugby players.

2. New Zealand: 595 clubs and 140,000 registered rugby players.

3. Australia: 848 clubs and 83,000 registered rugby players.

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  1. This is real sad, and after almost 20 years the words of Doc Craven comes true:”If you bring money in rugby the game that we know and love will fall”
    Andy fucked up the stormers change of a final in the super 12, now he fucked up again in sa rugby because of money,
    Sorry Henry Andy get’s the :asshole: of the week before you.

  2. Nothing new in amongst there except for a few stats…

    As you said… “don’t bring a knife to a gun-fight”… a two-bit Hoskins/Marinos against the might of the genius O’Neill… no contest…

    It’s been plain to see from the get go… he has…

    -succeeded in creating a national competition out of thin-air funded by the Newscorp coffers…

    I don’t any of the NZAR participants were ever going to support a purported ‘racial based franchise transformation vehicle’ with political agenda and the likes of Cheeky Watson and his band of merry men in the corrupt EC… that’s the reality…

    I feel for the fans, the players and the ‘good’ administrators (is that oxymoronic)/ex-players in the region…

  3. @Bunny: \

    Yet no mention of the president of SARU… lol… that’s a joke… Marinos is an ex-players rep pushed into the deputy position as there was nobody else… the buck stops at the top mate!

  4. I still think that not getting McKeever involved in rugby admin at any decent level was an opportunity missed. Some here will disagree with me. But the man does seem to put forward good arguments and plans supported by facts.

  5. @bryce_in_oz:

    For me it has more to do on what we conceded to NZAR given:

    a) Our contribution to the revenue of the competitions

    b) Our player pool compared to theirs

    That is just bad business, plain and simple.

    What is of massive interest to me is when this thing will blow up in SA Rugby’s face as it will with the franchise awarded to Melbourne, and the consequences this will have to SA Rugby, and the unions directly.

    Our Currie Cup is already compromised through the new proposed rugby calender of this new competition, but now SARU will have to decide to bump teams like Griquas, Boland and Leopards and take away any incentive to the first division competition where no team will be able to qualify for the premier competition…

    The smaller unions, President’s Council will kick up a massive stink.

  6. @Bunny:

    “Good” of course being the key word there. Not many of those around lately I fear. Mostly they’re too lazy to get off the arses to do some good fact finding.

  7. @Ollie:

    Without a doubt…


    And this is only sport… not really that important in the grand scheme of things… it’s rife across all sectors and more worryingly the young future ‘pollies’…

    Any way…

    Ad Nauseam… I’d like to see just a small fraction of all the ‘purported’ Govt-backing-money for the franchise… used to slowly but surely work from the bottom up and fix the mess that is EC rugby… and created a competitive VC side, then CC… and learn to walk before they can run…

    FFS Griquas can do it!

  8. @Ollie:

    Hehe… surely in 12 months a ‘competent’ team can get them competitive in the lowly VC… hell… most non-JW fans are expecting the Winning Ways team to make the Lions S14 contenders in half a CC season!

  9. This sounds like a bombshell,
    but I’ve also learned that
    McKeever has his own little
    agenda up his back pocket.

    Can he substantiate this statement:

    SA Rugby has spent tens of millions of Rands excluding the Southern & Eastern Cape from having a Super Rugby franchise.

    Two, three years ago Stofile and co.
    and the EC premier were fighting tooth
    and nail for the franchise – and then
    out of the blue they dropped it.
    With that went the academy plans for
    the EC.

    There may be more to this than what
    meets the eye.

  10. @Boertjie:

    I am yet to hear of any court cases against McKeever for slander, etc.

    Maybe he does have an agenda, but at least it seemed to include getting rugby in the region onto it’s feet.

  11. Typical marketer/salesman speech, using lots of words with little meaning. Confusing sentences, irrational logic and incomplete arguments.

    In short: “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit”.

    Dare I say, the hope perpetuates, notwithstanding the contrary, that sooner rather than later the eventuality will emerge for the writer to take his deck, his nous and his factoids to some other gunfight.

  12. @Ollie:

    Where does McKeever
    and Cheeky stand?

    Why hasn’t the major
    media picked up on this?

    Or are they maybe busy
    sorting the chaff from
    the facts?

  13. @fyndraai:


    “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit”.


    This has been his style all along.

    And he always finds a gullible
    outlet for his rantings.

  14. @Boertjie:

    So you don’t agree with McKeever, and reckon that rugby is being well managed in SA, the correct decisions are being made, the bargaining good, the expenditures justified, the EC region being helped as best possible by SARU?

  15. @Ollie:

    I don’t have the answers.

    I also know that nothing
    is above either SARU or

    He seems a one man band
    farting the same tune
    over and over, convincing
    nobody and achieving nothing.

  16. @Boertjie:

    Well I know who has been proven wrong time and time again.

    Why not give McKeever the same chances to (dis)prove himself? Unless you have another alternative of course.

    You are right that he has being saying the same thing over and over, and yet SARU do not deny any of it.

    Funny how nobody in the media sets up a 1 on 1 debate between the 2, could make interesting watching.

  17. @Ollie:

    I’m just trying to keep an
    open mind on things.

    It seems not even the shit
    stirrer and war monger Voldy
    is paying any attention.

    Lack of reaction always tells
    me something is missing. Maybe
    McKeever’s rantings have lost
    all possible credibility?

    Anyway, I’ll keep an open
    mind and eye.

  18. @Boertjie:

    No doubt TM would be watching this thread… but methinks (from comments he has made in the past on sportleader blog) he might just have seen through Cheeky for what he is… or maybe not…

    I hope the former…

  19. Change of subject… currently watching a doco on a true RSA legend (that hardly anyone outside of the fight world knows) Mike Bernardo K1 champion… quite a bit on the demise of apartheid… the ultimate irony was that he was snaked by the coloured trainers he so chose to support and take along on the ride with him (for monetary reasons)…

  20. @Boertjie:

    Maybe he has lost some credibility, but I wouldn’t count him out completely.

    But what he says seems to be correct. Hell, a lot of it has been said here before. What is missing is somebody who can demand accountability.

    McKeever seems to be a political outcast in the SA rugby scene. No politician likes things to be said as they are, always the danger that they will be on the receiving end and that scares them.

  21. If I remember correctly, there is no love lost between the 2.

    Both have been out of the limelight for a little while now, wonder when the next bomb will drop?

  22. @Boertjie:

    Yep it’s a pity he doesn’t… hence the posting on sportsleader blog and the bleacherreport… the man has RSA sports improvement on his mind first and foremost seemingly… before political aspirations and ripping off the ‘naive’ with bogus BEE deals like the other…

  23. At the end of the day, the babe of the day is looking good, SA Rugby is kak, people will always have agenda’s, and the players will suffer.
    Hihaaa For SA Rugby :brownie:


    “Coetzee confident Province won’t
    stumble against Boland”

    Cape Argus

    Like saying “Santana does not
    expect Bafana to win the WC”


  25. @Bunny:

    Aha… I was convinced I saw him hanging with Yeye, Stofile and Khompela in the VIP bar drinking magnums of Cote Du Rhone whilst Eddie wore his tracksuit on the touchline…