Home Opinion Opinion – Dropping Sunwolves the right call

Opinion – Dropping Sunwolves the right call


There will be many opinions on the decision from SANZAAR last week to drop the Sunwolves from Super Rugby. They will no longer be part of the competition in 2021 after SANZAAR decided to go back to a 14-team format.



The 14-team format will take Super Rugby back to a proven successful format where all teams will play a single round of matches against every other team in the competition.

From all the formats that SANZAAR have tried to sell us over the years Super 12 and Super 14 was most properly the best not just for the fans but also the players.

We have seen SANZAAR making plenty of changes to the competition format over the last couple of years.

It all started in 1993 with the Super 10 which had 10 teams from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and a Pacific Island side.

The teams involved in the first SANZAAR competition were Waikato, Auckland, Otago, North Harbour, Natal, Transvaal, Northern Transvaal, Queensland, New South Wales and Western Samoa (Pacific Tri-Nations winner).

We have seen SANZAAR expanding the competition a few times many like me believed that they overplayed their hand when they went to 18 teams with three conferences in 2016.

This caused viewership to plummet and franchises loosing bums on seats but luckily we finally see them realising that less is most of the time more.

All of this started in 2009 when ARU propose a model based around the three national conferences: each side were to have played the other four teams from their own country twice and the other ten teams once each; the season as to end with a six team finals series.

If they only stopped there but they had already stated in 2012 that they are considering adding franchises from Argentina, Japan and the United States in 2016.

So already in 2012 they were showing us that they would chase money rather than looking at what the fans wants which also send a clear message that they did not consider player welfare.

Rugby has moved on rapidly since 2012 and we may excuse them for that, because payer welfare was not an issue as it is today.

So in 2011 ARU got what they wanted and the Melbourne Rebels were given the new spot ahead of the Southern Kings.

In 2016 we saw SANZAAR expanding the competition again this time including the Kings, Jaguares and Sunwolves.

This dumped the competition into a new format.

The bottom line with this new format was that the one year you will face New Zealand sides if you where in the African conference and not the Aussie side and the next year it will swap around.

This took the competition to a new low with supporters just loosing interest. Teams were given playoff spots who did not deserved it just because they ended high in their own conferences.

Even worst teams with lower log points on the over table were hosting playoff matches against higher raked side for the sake of having a playoff match in each of the countries.

In 2018 thankfully SANZAAR announced that two South African teams and one Australian team will loose out as they went back to 15 teams and three conference system.

The problem with many was not that they cut three teams but that they kept teams like the Sunwolves in the competitions who ended last but send the Force, Cheetahs and Kings to find other competitions to play in.

There was also many that was not happy with the fact that the Sunwolves had always had a Barbarian-like side which excluded the top Japanese players in this side.

The believe out there has always been that the Japan Rugby Football Union did not really see Super Rugby as a benefit for their game and never bought into it.

The whole reason for their inclusion was to promote the game in the country and to explore that market.

Well they have failed in both in my view, with the Sunwolves adding nothing to the competition so far and all the new fans are now left out in the cold with no team playing in this elite competition.

I always believed SANZAAR should have included a Pacific Island side long time ago before they went to Japan but the problem has and always will be that they see no commercial benefit in including them.

The Southern Hemisphere governing body should be an organisation who promote the game.

But as we have seen through the years the Pacific Island’s have always come up short when it comes to decisions made from SANZAAR and World Rugby, even though they produce some of the best players in the world.

Their players  have been for years forced to resort in playing for other countries and clubs which left their unions loosing players year after year.

We have to feel sorry for the Japanese fans who have no team anymore after 2020 because of SANZAAR mistakes.

Going back to 14 teams is the right decision and will restore some of that past glory but it will take time.

SANZAAR said in their statement that they are looking into creating a Super Rugby Asia-Pacific competition.

If they can make this happen we will see Japan, the Pacific Islands, North America, South America and Hong Kong competing in their own competition.

This makes more sense than keeping the Sunwolves in Super Rugby but it begs the question why was this not done before they broke the competition?

Governing bodies need to realise that player welfare must one of the top priorities in their decision making when they do want to promote the game and expand their commercial interest.

We need money to run these competition but the money means nothing if we do not have a product to sell.

Hopefully we have seen the last of SANZAAR putting money before the interest of their biggest stakeholders – the players and fans.


  1. Said it many times – they should drop all SA teams. I thought that traveling is bad for us, but to be klapped at home week after week from NZ teams is a disgrace. We should protect the precious mental state of our millennial players and let them play against each other (because even Europe is klapping our beloved Kings and Cheetahs – coached by 2 very senior coaches, one who was actually Rassie’s golden boy for backline play!!). And why keep the Ha-kwar-S – they are as useless and seemingly make up their own rules anyway?

  2. Install a salary cap. Disallow ZeeBulls parasitic ( & demonic FYI ) tendencies to vampire off unions who know how to produce talent to steal from them.
    ZeeBulls strategy for Rugby Union is shown in a totally different area ( power generation ) currently and the blackouts seen there may as well be the Cheetahs in Rugby Union.
    SHAME !

  3. For those thinking that Pote Demon got a bit of religion vs Chiefs this weekend…
    Nobody cares about SR this year. It’s all WC Baby. Snow Monkeys & Cherry Blossoms – Yo.
    Pote better not wreck Brits/Snyman/DV/Handy for that or he will not just be another loser ZeeBulls ghoul – he’ll be a national team destroyer too.
    He probably doesn’nt care – not like he’s gotta soul to lose – anymore.

  4. @Americano: Bulls actually said they going to reduce the number of contract players.

    The new SARU contract system force unions to have less contracted players which will help spread the talent I believe.

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