From RugbyHeaven.co.nzSouth Africa's confirmation that it will protect the Currie Cup at all costs has pushed a stand-alone Australasian Super rugby competition on to the table.
As a Sanzar working party flew out to the republic yesterday for further meetings to nut out the future of Super rugby past 2010, South African rugby bosses struck a pre-emptive blow.
It was reported that a special meeting involving South Africa's five franchises and broadcaster Supersport had agreed en masse to pin their flag to their provincial competition.
The developments, reported in the Sondag newspaper, are a blow to New Zealand and Australian hopes of expanding the Super 14 to 15 teams with three conferences and an expanded playoff format starting in March.
With the Currie Cup starting in July, and the NZRU committed to the IRB's June test window, it is difficult to see where an expanded Super rugby format would now fit.
NZRFU chief executive Steve Tew admitted South African rugby's apparent line in the sand would not make things easy and could conceivably see two entirely separate competitions.
"We would have to consider that [an Australasian competition] and we have. Making finals work with competitions running at different times is difficult anyway and that's why we have looked at teams from Japan and the Pacific.
"It could be that competition is what we end up with, but it will continue to evolve.
"Whether we get final clarity is a matter of speculation right up to D-Day and from previous experience we are prepared for that this time as well."
Sanzar's current broadcast agreement with Newscorp runs until the end of 2010, but it hopes to have a deal in place by May to renew the television rights for the Super 14 and Tri-Nations.
SA Rugby, which contributes the lion's share of broacasting revenue to Sanzar, has already sold its television rights for the Currie Cup from 2011 until 2015 and is now clearly unwilling to budge.
Tew said he was aware of last Friday's special meeting between South Africa's rugby powers.
However, he was puzzled by reports they had "wholeheartedly" rejected the fallback option he proposed last week that would see Pacific and African pools combine at the finals stage.
Sondag suggested South Africa's response to that would be to form its own competition involving Argentina, the United States and teams from Scotland and Ireland.
"Given that South Africa are already concerned about the extra travel of the current competition, I raised my eyebrows at the suggestions about playing the USA, Argentina and two teams from Europe," Tew said.
"It sounds a bit far fetched, but it's their right to look at other options just as we are."
Tew said the reality was negotiations could tip any number of ways despite public perception and suggested constant media speculation was not helpful.
"The landscape could change several times. We know they are very keen to protect the Supersport deal and keen on the Currie Cup, which is very dear to their hearts.
"We will continue to look at all the options. At the end of the day, these things depend on fitting the right type of competition into the right calendar."