April 26, 2017 / 3:20 AM / 9 months ago

Brumbies give short shrift to Rebels merger proposal

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - The ACT Brumbies have dismissed suggestions of a merger with the Melbourne Rebels as the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) prepares to cut one of its five Super Rugby teams.

Either the Rebels or the Perth-based Western Force will be culled when the sprawling competition is scaled back to 15 teams next year but threats of legal action from both teams have delayed a final decision.

Some local media outlets and rugby pundits have been pushing for a merger between the Brumbies and Rebels, saying it would cement the Brumbies’ place in Super Rugby and retain a presence in the much larger sports market of Melbourne.

The ARU initially identified the Brumbies as one of three teams to be considered for culling, with only the Queensland Reds and New South Wales Waratahs excused from a review.

But the governing body announced earlier this month that the Brumbies were safe.

Brumbies CEO Michael Thomson said a merger would only serve to “kill” both clubs and dismissed any notion his side needed help to survive.

“We’re not looking at merging or contemplating a move to Melbourne, we are stable on our own two feet and in a far better position than a majority of Super Rugby teams,” he told Fairfax Media.

”When you look at on-field performance, sustainability and participation numbers, there’s virtually no reason that you would even consider having us as part of this discussion.

“We don’t see any benefit in being part of it and the other piece around it is if we were to play four games in Canberra and four in Melbourne it would kill both clubs.”

As part of the changes to next year’s Super Rugby competition, two teams are to be cut from the South African conference, with the Southern Kings and Bloemfontein-based Cheetahs seen as the most under threat.

Governing body SANZAAR have left it to the individual rugby unions to decide which teams to be cut, with the restructuring coming amid financial losses and widespread discontent over a competition that fans have described as “confusing” and “unbalanced”.

Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Peter Rutherford

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