No downside to expanding Pro12: Townsend

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Scotland coach Gregor Townsend has welcomed the possibility of introducing South African sides into the Pro12.

With South Africa agreeing to cut two of their Super Rugby teams from the competition in 2018, there have been discussions about the sides being handed a lifeline in the European Pro12.

The identities of the teams will be revealed after a July 7 special general meeting, though Pro12 organisers and SA Rugby have both previously voiced their support of the idea.

Townsend, who was Glasgow coach until taking over the Scotland job this season, said he wasn’t sure whether teams were interested, but he couldn’t see a downside.

“I don’t know if there’s desire or not, you would have to ask the organisers of the Pro12,” he said on Thursday.

“I’ve coached in the Pro12 the last five years and it’s an excellent tournament. The variety is something that makes it special and unique with teams from Ireland, Wales and Italy.

“If there was a willingness for the Pro12 to include teams from South Africa, I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t work out. It’s a great competition that’s always looking to evolve.”

South Africa’s timezone would be more aligned to the European teams’, but the distance of travel would be immense compared to the lengths the current sides go through now.

Townsend said that wouldn’t necessarily be a prohibitive element, citing the Super Rugby teams’ current travel toll.

“Super Rugby teams seem to find it okay and they travel a few time zones,” he said.

The Kings capitalised on the Waratahs' mistakes. Photo: Getty Images

“We fly to every game apart from one - the one we play against Edinburgh - and compared to England and France where we never took a flight to any game, players seem to have adjusted pretty quickly.”

The ARU will hold an EGM next Tuesday, with the VRU and RUPA looking for more clarity on Australia’s process, while South Africa’s announcement on Wednesday afternoon has locked in a July 7 date for their decision.

The Western Force and Melbourne rebels are the two sides under the pump, though the latter has been very adamant it is moving forward for 2018, with a swathe of signing announcements in recent weeks.

Australia’s governing body is set for arbitration with WA Rugby, starting July 31, while the Rebels have also reportedly launched their threatened legal action.