I was sceptical about certain smaller South African unions earning franchise status three years ago … I am more sceptical now.
That has a domino effect down the rugby power chain, if you like, back home.
When the Cheetahs lose players to overseas clubs, their own eyes will almost inevitably turn more keenly to a nearby, slightly smaller union like Griquas for replenishment of stocks. Similarly, the wealthier Sharks or Lions, for example, will be inclined to raid the Pumas, possibly based on evidence from the previous Currie Cup, if they suddenly have a dearth of resources in a position or two because of the player drain.
So “beefing up” significantly by the lesser regional powers becomes increasingly unlikely; they do well just to tread water these days for overall quality and depth of own squads.
I would have thought that the consistently lamentable win percentage of the Kings in the PRO14 since their installation there in 2017 is enough of a message to suggest that any further facilitation of franchise statuses in the country is an exercise in futility: we can just about manage five credible ones (Sharks, Stormers, Bulls, Lions and Cheetahs).
Unless some superstars come to light rapidly and unexpectedly – and they’d just as quickly be prone to poaching, whether internally or from outside the country – neither of Griquas or the Pumas can claim any significant drawcard appeal to overseas markets, frankly.
I believe their only chance of holding their own, with even that not guaranteed, would be if there was another fracturing of the Australian rugby landscape and the Force, for instance, found themselves out of premier favour once more, with a Pacific Island outfit or two also entering the equation as teams seeking new horizons and somehow hooking up with less vaunted South African sides.
And is even that scenario financially, and otherwise, viable?
*Rob Houwing is Sport24’s chief writer. Follow him: @RobHouwing