Brendan Cannon suggests a radical idea to try and spread the playing talent in a 18-team comp.
Former Wallabies forward and now pundit Brendan Cannon has suggested a radical idea for Super Rugby when it expands to 18 teams from 2016 onwards.
The former hooker said it is time the competition moves with the times and implements a player draft, to ensure the gap between the haves and have nots, does not get any wider.
“I fear the tournament will become stale and frail if organisers do not inject new excitement and relax limitations on players,” Cannon said.
“Putting the top 30 players into a draft pool – the best two from each club as nominated by rival teams – and allowing any franchise to bid for them at the start of the expanded tournament would bring huge buzz and excitement to Super Rugby.
“It would also allow players to experience life at an overseas club without being lost to Europe or Japan where they’re never seen again by the local audience.
“Teams will inevitably complain that they would lose their main drawcard; for instance NSW with Israel Folau. But under the draft system, there would be nothing stopping the Tahs bidding for Sonny Bill Williams or Dan Carter, who would bring equal amounts of publicity and hype. So it’s all relative.
“What is happening now is unsustainable.”
Cannon said the proposed plan could help the next television deal in Australia, something the outspoken former player said the ARU desperately needs.
“Spreading the talent around within the SANZAR pool while allowing players to still represent their countries would solve some of the issues around retention, but also ensure a much better broadcast deal,” he said.
“Let’s face it, if the ARU does not get the extra money they hope for out of the next broadcast deal, they’re facing extinction.
“By having South African players in Kiwi franchises, or Kiwis in Aussie franchises, the interest in overseas games suddenly has more appeal among local viewers.
“Surely more people would watch the Lions play the Stormers at 11pm Sydney time if the Lions boasted Kieran Read and the Stormers had Quade Cooper.
“As for the expanded model, I generally like the concept.”
The unions of South Africa, New Zealand and Australia announced recently they were backing a new four-conference, two-group model that will include three new clubs from South Africa, Argentina and possibly Asia or the United States.
Port Elizabeth-based Southern Kings will be one of new teams from South Africa.
Organisers are looking to the addition of an 18th team to take its competition to new markets with interest already received from America, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Japan, according to New Zealand Rugby Union chief executive Steve Tew.
“SANZAR has already received strong initial enquiries from a number of regions that are keen to stake their claim for a place in Super Rugby,” SANZAR chief executive Greg Peters added in a statement.
“We welcome contact from all interested parties as we seek to further enhance the global reach and appeal of this elite provincial competition.”
Australian Rugby Union chief executive Bill Pulver said the plan gave Super Rugby “the potential to become a truly global competition”.
“Our strong preference is for the 18th team to come from Asia, as we believe this will attract significant commercial opportunities for us in the future,” he said.
The four-conference, two-group future of Super Rugby will have each team playing 15 games and having two byes across a 17-week regular season.