A split looks to be quickly brewing in southern hemisphere rugby after South Africa conceded it was exploring the possibility of breaking away from SANZAR.
Dr Jan Marais, the chairman if the South African Rugby Union (SARU), admitted in a weekend newspaper that the relationship with counterparts from Australia and New Zealand, the other two countries that are part of SANZAR, the body that governs the sport in the three nations, had taken a knock in recent months.
He revealed that a decision had been made at the executive council meeting of SARU last week to look at alternatives to the Tri Nations and Super Rugby tournaments beyond 2015 – when a broadcast deal between the three member unions expires.
Speaking to the Sunday Times, he said: “The council gave the instruction that we should look at other possibilities beyond 2015.
“We can’t do anything about the current agreement because we are locked in until the contract expires.
“However, there is the strong feeling that we should at least look at possibilities we can explore at the conclusion of our current broadcasting deal.”
The move comes after several conflicts of ideas in recent months, the most notable being SARU’s grizzles about referees in the away games of the Tri Nations where northern hemisphere referees were in possession of the whistle.
Other problems that have arisen include the charge of misconduct against coach Peter de Villiers, disciplinary hearings that went against South African players and a letter from SANZAR regarding SARU president Oregan Hoskins’ “declaration of war” comments over the de Villiers charge.
But Marais insisted there was nothing concrete at the moment, saying that things may change over the next few years.
He added: “We won’t automatically opt for a renewal of the current deal.
“I think by then anyway we’ll have new people running the game but given the present climate we have at least decided to start looking at options.”
Hoskins, though, was much more conciliatory.
He said: “Tri Nations rugby is a robust game and we have robust conversations in the boardroom and occasionally knock each other down and have to pick each other up, dust ourselves off and get on with it.
“But it has been like that since day one.
“The bottom line is that this is the toughest rugby competition in the world and we’re fully part of it with our neighbours.
“In that spirit, we’ll be having discussions with New Zealand and Australia when they’re over here and after that we’ll get on with ensuring we continue to produce the best rugby tournaments in the world.”
Both tournaments under the SANZAR banner are due to be expanded in the coming years – the Super 14 will become the Super 15 in 2011 after the addition of the Melbourne Rebels, while Argentina will join an expanded Four Nations from 2012.