Rugby-Australia warns South Africa not to split SANZAR

SYDNEY Wed May 6, 2009 8:51am BST

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SYDNEY May 6 (Reuters) - South Africa will end up as the big losers if the southern hemisphere's SANZAR alliance breaks up, Australian Rugby Union (ARU) Chief Executive John O'Neill said on Wednesday.

South Africa is at odds with Australia and New Zealand over plans to expand the Super 14 to 15 teams from 2011, supporting the general concept but disagreeing over the proposed length and format of the new competition.

O'Neill warned that South Africa could miss out altogether if they failed to reach agreement, with Australia and New Zealand already offering to form their own provincial competition including teams from Japan.

"If Australia and New Zealand go their own way in a competition with five teams each, and then bring in two teams from Japan, we will live well off that," O'Neill said on Wednesday.

"But it will be a bad state of affairs for the South Africans. They could run the risk of losing players."

The matter is quickly coming to a head with SANZAR due to meet their broadcasting partners in June to thrash out a new television deal when the current one expires in 2011.

The three unions have organised a high-level meeting in Dublin this week to try to iron out their differences and O'Neill said he was hopeful the South Africans would eventually agree with the plans.

"The joint venture must remain intact," O'Neill said.

"I have dealt with the South Africans for years in business and sport. Part of their DNA is to take it to the brink.

"There's a moment when they will realise they have taken it far enough." (Reporting by Julian Linden; Editing by Peter Rutherford. To query or comment on this story email sportsfeedback@thomsonreuters.com)

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