The 2021 season will see the biggest change in club rugby since 1996 after it was announced that South Africa’s best domestic teams would leave the Super Rugby competition. They will instead merge with the Northern Hemisphere teams for the playing of the PRO14. It’s an astonishing move that has left many unsure about what the future holds for the Southern Hemisphere teams. It is now also uncertain whether there is still an appetite to compete against each other on the international stage.
Many relationships have fractured over this time and there is a general shortage of goodwill between South Africa and their once fierce foes over the Indian Ocean. It’s hard to remember a time when professional relations between the powers that be of South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand rugby were at such a low point. But the decisions have been made and there is no going back now, Super Rugby will continue without the South Africans for the first time since 1996.
The immediate impact may not be felt straight away given that the Crusaders have won the last three Super Rugby tournaments and that is predicted to be the case once again.
Crusaders Could make It Four from Four
It appears it will be business as usual for the New Zealand giants, the Crusaders, as a closer look at Royal Panda’s sportsbook for the 2021 Super Rugby Grand Final winner suggests. The team from Christchurch is at odds of 6/5 to win the competition again, and few will argue with that assessment. With that said, the same sportsbook is also offering odds on the Blues and Hurricanes at odds of 7/2 and 9/2 respectively, so there is some faith in the possibility of an underdog win. Although the general opinion is that the smart money is still on the frontrunner for glory, the Crusaders.
Crusaders v Lions | Super Rugby 2019 Rd 11 Highlights
The home side prove too clinical, recording their eight win this season as the Crusaders get a convincing 36-10 victory over the Lions in Christchurch. #SuperRugby #CRUvLIO pic.twitter.com/LV65NIvXw2
— Super Rugby (@SuperRugby) April 26, 2019
Although looking back, the last three finals in Super Rugby have been contested by the Crusaders and none other than the South African side the Lions. The Lions are, of course, one of four teams taking their leave from the competition in order to compete in the PRO14. This does suggest that Super Rugby will be weaker for the absence of the South African teams, but how will they get on in their new environment?
Can the World Champions Flex Their Muscles on a New Stage?
As we all know, the Springboks won the 2019 World Cup in Japan and now a large group of those players will be heading to the PRO14. Many fans agree that South Africa has the greatest strength in depth of any rugby union-playing nation with the largest pool of talent to choose from in world rugby. Indeed, the players they produce are arguably the best in the world. The Springboks are currently tied with New Zealand for most World Cups wins, with both nations having lifted the Webb Ellis Cup on three occasions.
Crucially, it’s worth noting that the Springboks were ineligible to play in the first two World Cups as they were serving an international sports ban. So, in actual fact, South Africa has won three World Cups to New Zealand’s two since the Springboks were readmitted to world rugby in 1995, making them the most successful nation of the modern era.
The footwork from Cheslin Kolbe is next level.
What a try this was from the @Springboks flyer in the Rugby World Cup final#ENGvRSA #RWC2019 #RWCFinal pic.twitter.com/Y2B3d929m8
— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) November 4, 2019
This is an important point because it illustrates that South Africa’s impact on world rugby is largely unmatched, which indicates that the four teams joining the PRO14 should succeed in their new venture.
There may be an adjustment period as the South African’s acclimatize to the conditions of European rugby. But once they have done so, there’s every chance they will become the dominant force in the PRO14.