Terrifying as it may seem, the Bulls – former Super Rugby champions – are also in the spotlight as one of the teams who could face the axe from Super Rugby, after their dismal run of late.
Unanimously agreed by the four partners, Sanzaar, Super Rugby’s governing body, on Sunday announced far-reaching changes to the format with the 18 current teams to be cut down to 15 next year.
Two SA teams and one Australian franchise face the chop.
While it’s widely expected that the Kings and the Cheetahs could face the axe, it’s not a foregone conclusion – with possible mergers apparently also part of the thinking process.
The four franchises who can prove that they are commercially viable and financially stable could survive the process.
But recent reports suggested that financially the Bulls might be in deep waters.
A newly-established Franchise Rugby Committee will meet on Tuesday to determine which two South African teams will be cut from next year’s competition.
Apparently promotion-relegation matches such as those between the Lions and the Kings back in 2013, is not seen as a viable solution.
But as Charl Crous, the CEO of the Kings – who lost a thriller 46- 41 to the Force yesterday in Perth – said, Saru will first consider the criteria on which the decision is to be made.
“Both the executive and general council will take an overall view before any announcement can be made,” said Crous.
The merger in the 2000s of the Cheetahs and the Lions to form the Cats was never a happy marriage, but SA Rugby might be forced to go that way again.
But Lions President Kevin de Klerk has said that a merger between the Bulls and the Lions will never be compatible.
The Bulls have only won a single game 34-21 against the Sunwolves at Loftus, but have suffered five losses, while the Cheetahs have won two from six. The Free State franchise have nine log points against the Bulls’ six – compared to 26 of the unbeaten Stormers.
The Bulls also suffered an historic first loss of 21-20 to the Sunwolves at the weekend in Tokyo – the first time an SA team have come up short against them.
This makes the clash between the Bulls and the Cheetahs on April 22 at Loftus Versfeld a crunch affair.
The Cheetahs incidentally have beaten the Bulls 34-28 in Bloemfontein on March 4 … Cheetahs CEO Harold Verster previously made a point of stating that the Cheetahs had won the Currie Cup last year.