Is the inclusion of the Southern Kings from 2013 really so impractical at this point in time? Putting aside the politics, and the rights and wrongs, I’ve looked at how the draw would need to be changed. And it really doesn’t require much changing at all.
Firstly, and importantly, you can still have the three conferences.
The significant difference is that while Australia and New Zealand provinces would still get to play each other twice, the South African provinces would only play four of five fellow South African teams, in order to fall in line with the same number of matches as the Aussies and Kiwis.
So how would the draw change with the introduction of the Kings?
The number of home and away matches would be 19, an increase by one on this year’s quota. How is this number arrived at? Well, each province plays every other province once for 15 matches.
The Aussie and Kiwi provinces then play return matches with their fellow provinces for another four matches, while the South Africans play four of five of their fellow provinces, also for four matches.
The top two from each conference still go through to the playoffs, which is conducted over three weekends.
The regular season would involve 19 matches per team over 21 weeks, with everyone getting two byes. Despite one extra week being added to the home and away season, the total number of matches will increase from 135 to 155 (assuming my maths is correct).
This would make the broadcasters happy, with more content and advertising space to sell.
I’m aware of the anomalies – the South Africans have six provinces to five each from the Aussies and Kiwis, half the teams will play 10 home games, and the other half will play nine and so on. But that part of it was no different under a Super 12 and Super 14 format.
The South Africans will be happy, since the introduction of the Kings will mean about an extra nine to 10 games in the locally (again, assuming my maths is correct).
South Africans might still grumble, probably will, that only two of their six provinces can qualify for the finals, compared to two from five for each of the Aussies and Kiwis.
The other major question is whether South Africa has enough quality players to justify the Kings. Looking at the Super 15 warm up games, the Kings certainly can compete. There biggest problem will be the depth of their squad. Come rounds 11 and 12, they will be seriously tested.
Give the Kings a chance, Natal were afford a similar opportunity years ago and look how far they’ve come.