South Africa to make cull call overnight

Super Rugby
by AFP

South Africa will reveal overnight which two of their six Super Rugby franchises are to be axed at the end of this season from a competition being cut from 18 teams to 15.

The Cheetahs and Southern Kings are the media favourites for the chop.

Should that scenario unfold, the Sharks, Lions, Bulls and Stormers Cape Town will compete next year.

Rising costs, exhaustive travel across 15 time zones, dwindling crowds and TV audiences, and a hard-to-understand format are among the reasons for cutting the number of teams.The Cheetahs and Kings are the anticipated casualties because they have the lowest average attendances and poorest overall playing records among the South African sextet.The Kings face the chop, despite improved form in 2017. Photo: Getty ImagesThe other victims of the cull will be either the Melbourne Rebels or the Perth-based Western Force from Australia.

New Zealand will have five of the 15 teams next season, Australia and South Africa four and Argentina and Japan one.

There has been speculation that Cheetahs and Kings may join the Pro12, a European competition currently including Irish, Italian, Scottish and Welsh teams.

But no rugby officials, bar one at the Cheetahs, are talking ahead of the Friday announcement.Will the Cheetahs feature in Super Rugby in 2018? Photo: Getty Images"The Cheetahs have a participation agreement with South African Rugby to participate in Super Rugby until 2020," Cheetahs spokeswoman Ronel Pienaar told reporters.

"SANZAAR and SA Rugby decided to minimise the number of teams in Super Rugby from 18 to 15.

"SA Rugby started with an internal process to determine which two teams to drop from 2018 onwards," said Pienaar.

She did not comment on reports that the Cheetahs are pondering legal action to ensure Super Rugby survival given the participation agreement has three seasons to run.

TV analyst and former Springboks coach Nick Mallett, one of the most outspoken voices on South African rugby, favours a radical solution.

"Divide the country into four regions," suggested the coach of the Springboks that finished third at the 1999 Rugby World Cup.Nick Mallett says SA Rugby should look to an alternative model. Photo: Getty Images"Let us have Gauteng (Bulls and Lions), KwaZulu-Natal (Sharks), Eastern Cape (Cheetahs and Kings) and Western Cape (Stormers) making up the four South African franchises."

Kings vice-president Bantwini Matika backed Mallett.

"I believe that this is a golden opportunity for SA Rugby to re-examine and revamp what I consider to be a racist rugby landscape," he wrote in the City Press newspaper.

"The allocation of the four franchises should move away from historical apartheid rugby structures and look to the future."

In Australia, the Rebels will not proceed with the mediation scheduled with the ARU.

The Force will still head to arbitration in an attempt to "fast track" the lengthy dispute.