Chiefs coach Dave Rennie heads the chorus of disapproval in the wake of the revelation that Super Rugby is set to expand to 17 or 18 teams in 2016.
The expansion was approved at a meeting of SANZAR’s Executive Committee in Sydney last Thursday.
The meeting was described as “another important step in deciding the future of Super Rugby” and the new model involves six teams from South Africa and a new team from Argentina.
However, it was met with strong opposition, rather than approval, from within the three SANZAR countries – South Africa, New Zealand and Australia.
The Aussies, in particular, are keen to retain the current three-tier system where they have plenty of local derbies that attract spectators.
In his first comments on the proposal, the Chiefs coach said he was forcefully opposed to the changes, citing fears for player welfare and major concerns the integrity of the competition would be severely compromised.
Former All Blacks captain Taine Randell, ex-NZRU boss David Moffett and national players’ association boss Rob Nichol also spoke out against SANZAR’s proposal.
Rennie clearly felt blindsided by the announcement, and that his and the views of other Kiwi Super Rugby coaches had been ignored.
”While we’ve been consulted I’m not sure we’re being listened to,” Rennie said in an interview published in the Sydney Morning Herald.
He revealed the Kiwi coaches’ suggestion of a 14-game round-robin competition between the existing 15 teams – a format that would shorten the season by two weeks – appeared to have been shelved.
”The New Zealand coaches wanted a legitimate competition where everyone plays everyone,” Rennie said.
”All the other scenarios include more teams, more travel and more time away from home.
”Their proposal has the same amount of games, but it’s not necessarily in the best interests of player welfare for our players.”
Rennie felt SANZAR’s proposal was compromised by the politics inherent in three-nation coalition.
”Another South African side may generate more money but is it in the best interests of our players and the competition?” he asked.
”I’m not sure how the public will take to their proposed format. Some of the punters would find that hard to follow.”
Rennie was also concerned about the competitiveness of an Argentinian team, feeling it could quickly join the Western Force and Melbourne Rebels as examples of overseas franchises that need propping up by South African and New Zealand players.
”I’m not sure where they’re going to get their players from. Most of them play in Europe,” he said.
”The worry is if there’s not the quality in Argentina, maybe they’ll start grabbing from New Zealand which further thins out the pool here.”
Randell described SANZAR’s plans as ”defying logic”.
He felt South Africa’s Super Rugby record did not justify an additional team and was bemused the Pacific Island nations continued to be snubbed
Moffett said SANZAR had bowed to political pressure and threats of a European walkout from South Africa who seem destined to get a sixth franchise despite their teams finishing last 13 times in 18 years of Super Rugby.
The former boss of the National Rugby League, as well as Welsh and NZ rugby, labelled the expansion to a 17-team competition as ”insanity”.
Moffett said that in promoting ”quantity over quality”, SANZAR risked turning fans off.
”It’s absolute insanity. People will get fed up. The quality of rugby will just go down further,” said Moffett, currently seeking chairmanship of the Wales Rugby Union.
”The extra South African team is purely political. There certainly aren’t enough quality players in South Africa for six professional teams.”