Sanzaar boss Andy Marinos says global calendar 'will happen'

13:42, Aug 26 2020

The much-talked-about global rugby season is moving closer while Sanzaar has finally conceded that a cross-border Super Rugby competition is dead in 2021, says the organisation’s chief executive Andy Marinos.

In a Q and A interview with SA Rugby Mag, Marinos revealed he was “working closely with my counterpart at the Six Nations and some of the northern hemisphere unions” on the global calendar, and was “optimistic” about getting it across the line.

“The big drivers behind it are to make sure we can manage the player welfare a lot better and get a much better narrative around the international programme so we have games that have meaning,” Marinos said. “At the moment we have a series of games in July and November that are just a set of friendlies.”

There have been reports in Britain suggesting the Rugby Championship and the Six Nations could both be moved to March-April, as part of a new calendar that would have the July test window shifted to October.

That would upend the current southern hemisphere season, although it is likely to be just one of a number of ideas put forward.

‘I think it [a global season] will happen,” Marinos said. “I am particularly close to it at the moment, being on a number of working parties around it.

“We have put forward a few proposals.

”... I remain optimistic that in the not-too-distant future we will be moving into a more globally aligned season where there are clearly defined windows for international and domestic rugby.”

However, Sanzaar appears to have seen the writing on the wall with regards to Super Rugby – for 2021 at least.

NZ Rugby and Rugby Australia have both been vocal about their desire to set up a trans-Tasman/Pacific competition, and Marinos acknowledged that “every union that is part of the Sanzaar alliance has a responsibility to ensure rugby is sustainable in each of their markets”.

“Without compromising anybody, we are working through it as a joint venture,” Marinos said. “The likelihood of us being able to deliver a round-robin structure as things are now is not realistic but there is an acknowledgement that a cross-border competition needs to be in place in the future.

“We have seen that the ability to play against different countries on a domestic level strengthens you on an international level.”

Even if NZ Rugby and Rugby Australia proceed with a competition, which may not start until 2022, both unions are still likely to remain keen on playing South African sides in some format.

Rugby Australia recently pitched a “Super Eight” format to Australian broadcasters, which would feature the best two teams from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Japan.

In test rugby, Marinos said, it was important for New Zealand to keep playing the Springboks.

“If you speak to anybody from Australia or New Zealand who has any knowledge of rugby, having the Springboks coming over to play is critically important to the development of their players,” he said.

“There is nothing saying that South Africa could not have a foot in both hemispheres and get the best of both worlds. But from a Sanzaar perspective, it remains important that South Africa is part of the joint venture.”

Marinos also took aim at the nations who voted for Bill Beaumont at the World Rugby election, arguing that the failed bid for the chairmanship by Agustin Pichot was a missed opportunity.

“Let’s not forget that Gus lost that election only because the greater number of votes come from the Six Nations,” Marinos said. “There are four nations voting over here versus six nations from the north. When you look at the support Gus got from the rest of the world, it was in his favour.

“The game is at a tipping point. It needs a revolution. It needs to adapt and make itself more relevant to the environment in which we are trying to compete. Other major sports around the world are so much more advanced.”