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Stormers coach has potential solution to finish Super Rugby season

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ByReuters
02/04/2020 at 09:53 | Updated 02/04/2020 at 09:55

By Nick Said

CAPE TOWN, April 2 (Reuters) - Stormers coach John Dobson has outlined a potential way forward for Super Rugby in 2020 that would involve three domestic competitions and a short finals series later in the year.

The coronavirus pandemic has crippled the global sporting calendar, with Super Rugby one of the early casualties due to the nature of the competition that requires extensive global travel.

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But Dobson believes that when it’s safe to return to the pitch, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand could determine their national champions in home-based fixtures, with the top three teams joined by the Jaguares of Argentina in semifinal and final play-offs at a single venue.

"This is just my opinion, but I think there could be domestic tournaments that will be played under the Super Rugby banner," Dobson told Reuters.

"Sponsors and broadcasters need to have something and domestic matches in a closed-door environment could be the way forward.

"Then if international travel is back on in, say, July, you could have a short finals series in a neutral venue, with the three champions and the Jaguares, who obviously cannot take part before then due to travel bans.

"You would have to scrap the (Springboks’) July international matches against Scotland and Georgia, but that may be inevitable anyway."

Dobson believes the longer-term fallout from the coronavirus pandemic could change competitions across the world and potentially work in South African rugby’s favour.

"The overseas markets for our players could close up dramatically and with the oversupply in the market currently, could see a lot of players return to the South African game.

"That will lead to stronger domestic competitions and hopefully more interest. What is most important is that we get people to the stadium.

"At some point, a sponsor or broadcaster is going to look at a stadium with 3,000 people there and not want to be associated with that product. We simply have to get people into the ground.

"If that is stronger domestic competitions, or us (South Africa) taking part in the Heineken Cup (European Rugby Champions Cup), I don’t know. But it must happen."

The Stormers made a strong start to the Super Rugby campaign in Dobson’s maiden term in charge, winning their first four games before losing their last two before the pause in the season.

(Reporting Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

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