Cape Town – Legendary former All Blacks flyhalf Andrew Mehrtens has called for the current Super Rugby system to be scrapped in order for New Zealand and Australia to venture into the Asian market.
In an interview with ESPN, Mehrtens said he had a solution for New Zealand to prevent their star players from signing lucrative deals in Europe.
“Going forward if we push into Asia, if we can develop a competition that’s in the same time zone I think it’s going to be a better product,” Mehrtens said.
“I’ve said for a long time, we need to drop South Africa – as much as I love South Africa – logistically it’s a pain in the a***, same with Argentina. Argentina needs to go up their time zone with the USA; South Africa go probably start developing franchises in Dubai or somewhere there, but I think our push is into Asia.”
New Zealand Rugby has a policy of not picking players for the All Blacks if they ply their trade overseas.
South Africa, who won the recent World Cup in Japan, currently employs the policy of picking overseas-based players, while Australia does not pick overseas players unless they have played more than 60 Tests.
Mehrtens, who played 70 Tests for the All Blacks between 1995 and 2004, said venturing into the Asian market would allow New Zealand players to play abroad but still in the same competition as their compatriots.
“If we push into Asia I think at that point New Zealand rugby has got to say ‘well OK, we’re going to allow our players to play offshore so long as they play in our competition’. If they don’t go to France, they don’t to England or Ireland or whatever; so long as they stay in our competition and it brings teams in this new market for rugby, eventually they’re going to have to face facts and still select them.”
This is not the first time that Mehrtens has called for South Africa and Argentina to be scrapped from Super Rugby.
In 2017, he told Fox Sports‘ Super Rugby: Kick & Chase programme that the competition was “stupid”.
“There’s no way, in 10 years’ time that we’re going to be looking at a competition that covers three massively distinct time zones.
“Our best thing is to go just within this time zone here. It makes it a lot more logistically easy to manage for the teams and players.
“You fly overnight, a 10-hour flight to Japan, you can handle that because the time difference is not massive,” Mehrtens said.
– Compiled by Herman Mostert