The SANZAAR saga is set to drag on through Easter – and possibly beyond – after the ARU offered the Melbourne Rebels and Western Force more time to state their case for Super Rugby survival beyond 2017.
ARU chairman Cameron Clyne says the governing body’s initial plan to decide which franchise will be cut from the competition by Thursday had been scrapped.
Given it’s then Good Friday and a public holiday long weekend, players, staff, their families and fans of the Rebels and Force are almost certain to be left on tenterhooks until at least next Tuesday before the ARU hands down its decision.
With SANZAAR first forecasting three franchises – two from South Africa and one from Australia – being removed as part of a restructure to a 15-team competition format in 2018 some seven weeks ago, the delay is becoming almost unbearable for the Rebels and Force.
“It’s just been going on for so long. It’s definitely frustrating. You’d like to get an answer and be able to move on … for whatever organisation ends up getting the flick,” Rebels captain Nic Stirzaker said on Tuesday.
But with Rugby WA issuing a writ against the ARU on behalf of the Force and the Rebels also considering their legal options following Monday’s confirmation they were the two Australian clubs in the firing line, a further delay was almost inevitable.
“The ARU will undertake due process to ensure that both the Melbourne Rebels and Western Force are given adequate opportunity to present their business case before the board makes a final decision on which team to be removed,” Clyne said.
“We maintain our commitment to reaching resolution on this matter as soon as possible, however the timeline that we initially anticipated of 48-72 hours will not apply.
“As confirmed on Monday, we have commenced a consultation process with both teams and will provide an update at an appropriate time.”
ARU chief Bill Pulver will fly to Melbourne on Wednesday to consult Rebels owner Andrew Cox.
Rebels assistant coach Morgan Turinui said he understood the delay and just wanted the ARU to make the right decision for the sake of all concern.
Turinui even empathised with Matt Hodgson after the Force stalwart’s emotional plea to the ARU on Sunday to spare the Perth outfit from the chop.
“Matt Hodgson talking about moving his families to Perth and talk about creating a life. That’s the human element to it.,” Turinui said.
“Families as well, they’ve got no control.
“People at the Rebels and the Force have got people that have come from other places to make a commitment to their clubs.”