Larkham hoses down merger speculation

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham is confident his team has a permanent place in Super Rugby, shutting down suggestions of a Brumbies-Rebels merger.

Larkham said last week he hoped a decision would come out of that weekend’s SANZAAR  meeting in London, but Australia’s clubs are still in limbo nearly a week after that.

The Brumbies have been mentioned as a club potentially under threat, with talk of a merger between the Rebels floated in recent days, but Larkham hit back at that idea on Thursday..

“We are a Canberra team, we support this region, the region supports us and the Brumbies will only ever play out of Canberra,” he said.

““I think it’s disappointing that people are even suggesting that (a merger) and I think that’s what we’re seeing at the moment is that there’s a lot of speculation,” he said.

Cheetahs CEO Harold Verster is the only executive to voice any theories, albeit to try and guarantee his own side’s safety, a move Larkham took a swipe at on Thursday.

“The decision hasn’t been made at the top level.

“You see CEOs from South African franchises throwing statements out there and I think that’s what it is - it’s people speculating what’s going to happen.”

When asked whether the ambiguity would affect their search for a new coach from 2018, Larkham said any applicants shouldn’t be concerned.

“We’ve had no indication we’re not going to be here next year and our mindset is that we’re going to be here,” he said.

“We’ve been the most successful Super Rugby franchise in Australia and our books are good, our squad is strong and there’s no reason why we can’t push ahead for a new coach next year to come and coach the Brumbies here in Canberra.”

While Larkham was clearly frustrated at whispers of the Brumbies being cut but said he could see why the wait was continuing.

“It is (dragging on) but I can understand it’s a difficult decision and there’s a lot of iterations around one team out, two teams out, three teams out, all that sort of stuff,” he said.

“I guess they’re working through all of that and they need to get a decision from South Africa before we move on.

“Even when we get that decision, there’s a couple more decisions to be made before we make the final decision. I can understand how the process has dragged out.”

SANZAAR CEO Andy Marinos met with ARU CEO Bill Pulver on Thursday, though officials played down the significance of that meeting in regards to Super Rugby.

Discussions with stakeholders are still ongoing in each SANZAAR country, with broadcaster conversations looming as critical.