The South African Pro12 entry is one that is appearing no earlier for Guinness Pro12 fans. The Kings and Cheetahs played their last Super Rugby fixture against each other on Friday, and fans now face the wait to find out when their side will face the new challengers.
As Super Rugby reduces it’s format to 15 teams, the two South African exiled teams brace themselves for possible entrance into the Pro12, but when will this take place remains undecided.
Fan Agony in Guinness Pro 12, With Little Time to Spare
With less than 8 weeks until the usual kick-off date for the Pro12 season, there is still speculation over who plays who? Where and when? And how many weeks of competition can be sustained. Fans are starting to air their feelings over a possible loss of home games, especially for those who have already purchased season tickets.
With the South Africans’ only just finishing up their season, leaving such little time on the Pro12 fixture list creation, Last Word on Rugby must question whether the two former Super Rugby sides should enter the Celtic and Italian setup this season, or next.
Last seasons fixtures were released by July 13, so we’re not talking weeks and weeks of delays yet. But any much later, leaves fans little time to plan the longer trips. When asked on social media, 50% of fans said that the late release was an issue, with many sparking debate upon ‘the credentials of the Pro12 board’.
The Guinness Pro12 board haven’t done anything overtly bad [yet] but by not being able to release fixtures, the appear unsteady. However, with it being a huge shambles previously too, this adds to that colossal farce. With other league’s allowing much more planning time for their fans travel plans, Pro12 is losing any positive appeal that adding two teams might once have held.
It just leaves fans of the league wondering whether the move to incorporate South Africa is a bit rushed. It would be nice to have fixtures set earlier of course. But since supporters don’t currently understand how the league will be structured inclusive of the Cheetahs and Southern Kings anyway–with the sides only just finishing playing down under–how can they expect any fixtures at all?
Delayed Entry/Delayed Fixture Announcement
With so little time left until the beginning of the season, and teams still without a fixture sheet it has left the South African Pro12 entry up in the air. Surely their own squads should be allowed more time to prepare as well as the existing competition sides. One can imagine they may have to face a new league structure, with such late fixture planning a real headache.
Costs are also another feature. A team like the Scarlets might need to plan for one of two trips to the republic, so the logistics are detailed now. One can imagine the current Pro12 sides demanding more details immediately – otherwise, the entire discussion must be suspended.
Likewise, broadcasters must also be asking questions. BT Sport recently secured rights, so how is the broadcaster feeling, unsure of the fixture list as much as how to transmit matches played in South Africa.
Due to such a delay, it certainly isn’t feasible that a one year sabbatical be taken by the two sides. That would be the least practical solution, with the ongoing issues on fixture release or structure announcement at least heightening discussion that they might not enter the system this year.
Two Former Super Rugby Sides in Limbo
It wouldn’t be a favoured plan; to delay the South Africans’ entry from the SARU point-of-view either. After the amicable settlement between the two former Super Rugby sides, any further delay in naming alternative International competitions for either the Cheetahs or Southern Kings, will only leave egg on the face of SARU and SANZAAR.
Sitting in limbo, while negotiations carry on in the United Kingdom, fans of the Cheetahs and Kings have been under pressure since April. Prolonging that agony and being left ‘in limbo’ is not a positive position for any party to be in.
The lack of information released via all parties related to the South African Pro12 entry could be more to do with legal restrictions with clauses on non-disclosure bound to be wrapped up in amongst the deals.
This will remain to be seen, but you would imagine some sort of announcement on what is going on would make (at the least) good PR for the stakeholders.
News Needs To Be Released Quickly
Regardless of the private nature of the meetings in question over the South African Pro12 entry, many fans and clubs remain out of the know.
The integrity of the league was already being destroyed with numerous issues arising over the last few seasons. Martin Anayi and his team must work fast if they are to save any remaining respect for the league – which could be vital in attracting further investors from abroad in the future.
Whatever the news; if South African Pro12 entry is delayed a year, or happening this season, it must be released. For the good of the league’s future, an announcement is required, and soon.
“Main photo credit”