South Africa will be able to field a sixth team in the Super Rugby competition from 2016. The decision, which was reached at a meeting of Sanzar in Sydney on Tuesday, will bring to an end a nightmare for the South African Rugby Union (Saru).
Deciding which of South Africa's six Super Rugby teams would miss out on the lucrative southern hemisphere tournament had become a political hot potato for Saru and led to a lot of criticism and dissatisfaction.
After being given an opportunity to contest the 2013 competition, the Southern Kings missed out on next year's competition when they lost out to the Golden Lions in a home and away playoff on points difference after both had recorded wins at the others' home ground. In future, a playoff will no be longer be required, although dealing with one in the years leading up to 2016 will surely lead to more dissatisfaction.
Now that the problem of which South African teams qualify to play in Super Rugby has been solved from 2016, more opportunities have been created for South African rugby players, which should serve to slow down their exodus to foreign clubs.
The good news for South African rugby was confirmed by Sanzar CEO Greg Peters and Saru CEO Jurie Roux.
Interviewed by SuperSport Blitz, Peters said: "We want to retain Super Rugby as the pre-eminent regional tournament in the southern hemisphere, and we want to keep it as one competition, and there are various options we are looking at to ensure that, but I can confirm that a sixth team from South Africa has been accepted."
Roux said: "We have a sixth team in the competition, and that is a given. All the models that are being discussed work around a sixth team from South Africa being included."
South Africa will field the Southern Kings, Lions, Bulls, Stormers, Cheetahs and Sharks for the 2016 competition, while both New Zealand (Chiefs, Blues, Highlanders, Hurricanes and Crusaders) and Australia (Brumbies, Reds, Waratahs, Force and Rebels) will have five teams.
While a team from Argentina has not been included, indications are that a move would be made in that direction in future because the Pumas are part of the Castle Lager Rugby Championship.
Some in New Zealand would like a sixth franchise, while teams from the Pacific Islands and Japan have also been mooted.
Apart from considerations to do with sponsorship, the biggest problem, if Super Rugby is expanded further, would, no doubt, be finding space on the calendar and coming up with an effective format.