Time's up: SANZAAR alliance has run its course

Super Rugby is no longer a competition that serves SANZAAR's collective interests Koki Nagahama/Getty Images for Sunwolves

How did they get it so wrong?

By the time Super Rugby wraps up next year, the competition will have run through three different formats in 10 years before reverting back to the 14-team model last used in 2010.

Long gone are the Western Force, Cheetahs and Southern Kings, while the Sunwolves will follow them out the door, at this stage at the end of next year but not without the possibility of 2019 serving as their swansong.

The Rebels and Jaguares were born and remain, albeit only after an ugly Rugby Australia review for the former wound up in the Senate.

Three different iterations of the conference system have been trialled; from the simple to the ridiculously complicated, some fairer than the others, but each of which has never quite sat comfortably with supporters.

SANZAAR butchered expansion and was then forced to apply band-aid solutions to a competition that was completely broken. Blinded by inflated broadcast dollars, its partners chose to ignore the fact Super Rugby may no longer be in each of their best individual interests; that their collective goals were no longer aligned.

The SANZAAR alliance no longer serves its provincial intentions, but each of its partners choose to hold onto to the memories of the past rather than recognise the current despair; it has been short on decisive leadership all the while taking Super Rugby supporters for fools.

South Africa remains in the position of power because it contributes the lion's share of the broadcast revenue; by showing up to five games on a Saturday from 6 a.m. through to 10 p.m. it clearly gets the most value out of broadcast timings.

Watching two South African teams do battle, in the early hours of Sunday morning, isn't such an attractive option for supporters in Australia and New Zealand, however.

But New Zealand likes its team to consistently face South African opposition, seeing it vital preparation for when the All Blacks battle the Springboks at Test level.

Kiwis are not keen on a home-and-away local derbies, with New Zealand's players, in particular, believing they take too much of a physical toll.

Where New Zealand wasn't in favour of home-and-away local derbies, Rugby Australia and its four franchises recognised such fixtures were vital in driving television audiences and getting people through the gate. Basically, they helped to keep the franchises afloat.

New Zealand Rugby did support the Sunwolves, realising the value and growth opportunities available throughout Asia. Rugby Australia was of the same belief, each of its franchises establishing sponsorship arrangements through the region while the Rebels went one step further and set up a strategic alliance with the Sunwolves.

The Sunwolves were themselves playing in front of arguably the best crowd, in Tokyo, of any team from the competition. Sadly, the howls will soon fall silent.

The competing interests across the four countries are clear: What suits one country, doesn't fit so nicely in another.

Meanwhile World Rugby vice-chairman Agustin Pichot champions Argentina's cause and South Africa keeps a potential move to Europe up its sleeve.

And then there are reports the Sunwolves will be forced to field fringe Top League players and university students because their clubs won't want to risk the country's best players. And what chance South African, New Zealand or Australian players will want to lace up for a team they know won't be around at the end of the season?

The worst of this may still be yet to play out.

What is abundantly clear right now, however, is that, at the provincial level, SANZAAR's time is up: The lofty heights of Super 12, when the competition was the envy of the rugby world, are long gone.

The return to round-robin play under the revised 14-team tournament structure is the only flickering light in a dark tunnel SANZAAR has stumbled down for the best part of a decade.

In attempting to clean up the mess it created, SANZAAR has only gone and created more garbage. It's time the alliance was left to rot on the scrapheap itself.