SA Rugby cuts budget amid plans for one-off alternative to Super Rugby

SA Rugby proposes that the Stormers and Bulls will play Super Rugby rivals the Sharks and Lions as well as PRO14 teams the Cheetahs and Southern Kings in a domestic competition. Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images/Getty Images

South Africa Rugby will seek to cut spending by 1 billion rand ($US52.95 million) over the next eight months in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and has plans for a new domestic competition to replace Super Rugby and the PRO14 on the 2020 calendar.

SA Rugby also announced on Tuesday that it had reached an agreement in principle with various stakeholders for pay cuts, including the players' union and employees, which had to be formally ratified, but did not put a figure on the reductions.

The governing body confirmed plans for a one-off six-team domestic competition between June and August, as it seems increasingly likely that the Springboks' internationals against Scotland and Georgia in July will not go ahead as scheduled in that month.

The planned new competition will feature the Bulls, Cheetahs, Lions, Sharks, Stormers and Southern Kings, and it will be followed by the domestic provincial Currie Cup competition.

"Many businesses find themselves in a fight for survival and rugby is no different," SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux said in a statement. "We face an extremely threatening crisis and we had to take united and decisive action to address it head on.

"I'd like to commend the employees, players and the unions for the collaborative and realistic way they have approached this crisis.

"We are all in this together and we all quickly agreed that we have to equally contribute to the solution."

Roux added that the financial pressure on the organisation was unlikely to ease until rugby was back in full swing, hence the plan to play a domestic competition to provide broadcast partners with content.

"Our income is tied to the playing of professional rugby and without matches we potentially don't have any income. We don't know when we will be able to resume the season so have had to budget against a range of scenarios," he said.

"Unfortunately, we had to make some very tough calls in terms of our local competitions, but we have the buy-in and support from the local franchises and unions, SAREO, MyPlayers and our broadcaster, SuperSport, in this regard."

Super Rugby is the southern hemisphere club championship played between teams from South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Argentina and Japan, but the cross-border travel makes it highly unlikely it will return in its full form in 2020.

The PRO14 is a European club competition that has included the Cheetahs and Kings since 2017, and faces the same travel challenges.