- As SA Rugby moves to determine which franchises will go to Europe in future, Rassie Erasmus has noted several potential benefits for the local game should that route be followed.
- The national director of rugby believes the high world rankings of Wales, Ireland and Scotland mean PRO Rugby is competitive and that fans will eventually identify with the tournament.
- Erasmus concedes there are also problems but didn’t elaborate.
He’s leaving the determination (and politics) of which South African franchises could potentially end up in an expanded PRO14 tournament down to SA Rugby’s general council but Rassie Erasmus believes there are various benefits for the local game to go north.
The federation’s highest decision-making body meets on Tuesday to vote on an issue that is likely to be controversial either way as SA’s six franchises need to be whittled down to four.
It’s widely expected that the Cheetahs face the guillotine along with the liquidated Southern Kings.
Erasmus, the national director of rugby, reiterated that he wasn’t making an emphatic case for South Africa to join Europe as “I won’t go into the lots of problems that I might tell you about” and that no official confirmation has been given yet.
“Please don’t quote me and say this is the way to go,” the World Cup-winning coach said with a wry smile.
“The first benefit is that as a fan, you’ll be watching the game in the same time zone. You’ll watch it in the afternoon, have a braai and a few beers with mates. It makes a difference.”
Yet, as has become obvious over the years, one of the bigger plusses is the fact that South African teams won’t have the pronounced travelling challenges of before.
“For us as coaches and players, you can get on a plane, sleep on it and actually play the next day,” said Erasmus.
“That’s nice, for broadcasting and for your own planning. There are regular flights that you can get everywhere.”
Having experienced a successful stint in Ireland as Munster’s director of rugby, the 47-year-old also quelled question marks over the competitiveness of PRO Rugby, a fear expressed from certain quarters who believe Australasian sides still represent superior opposition.
“You will play against countries’ best players who are normally ranked high on the world rankings. I don’t want to make this a rule of thumb because we were ranked No 7 not long ago,” said Erasmus.
“But currently, when you think where Argentina and Australia are currently ranked, they’re 10th and seventh respectively. Ireland is invariably in the top four. Wales is always in the top five. Even Scotland remain very competitive.
Pierre Schoeman is one of various South Africans lighting up the PRO14 (Getty Images).
“Those are the benefits. I can tell you of a lot of problems too but, in my opinion, the moment people start knowing the players who play there, they’ll discover there are a lot of South Africans in those leagues.
“They’ll see those players are very good and play at a level close to Test match rugby.”