DURBAN – Now that South African rugby’s future has been confirmed in what will become a PRO 16 next year, Rassie Erasmus has highlighted the benefits of the Sharks, Stormers, Lions and Bulls playing in Europe.
South Africa’s exit from Super Rugby in exchange for joining the best of Ireland, Wales, Scotland and Italy was confirmed at an SA Rugby meeting on Tuesday that also revealed that the Cheetahs will drop out of the PRO 14 and are likely to be accommodated in a Super 8 competition featuring New Zealand and Australian teams.
In terms of pure geographics, the PRO 16 would mean no more time-consuming treks to Australasia, but Director of Rugby Erasmus says there is more to it than more convenient travel.
“Just looking at it from the point of view of supporters 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.
“For us as coaches and players, you can get on a plane, sleep on the overnight flight and actually play the next day, and have no jet lag because there is only a one-hour time difference.
“That’s nice for the broadcasters and also for your own planning. Also, there are regular flights that you can get (to London) from most big cities in South Africa.”
There has been an argument that the PRO 14 is a weaker competition than Super Rugby and that joining it will be to the detriment of the standard of South African rugby, but Erasmus doesn’t necessarily agree.
“You will play against countries’ best players (in the PRO 16) who are normally ranked high on the world rankings,” he said.
“Because when you think where Argentina and Australia are currently ranked, they’re 10th and seventh, respectively. Ireland is invariably in the top four in the world. Wales is always in the top five. Even Scotland remains very competitive.