In or out? South Africa must end Super Rugby exit scuttlebutt

The eyes of the world will be on the United Kingdom this Saturday when Prince Harry marries Meghan Markle at Windsor Castle. But back in central London, there is a meeting taking place to discuss another union, only this one is already more than 20 years old.

SANZAAR's board meeting might not draw the same level of interest as the Royal Wedding, but it is no less significant. The current state of flux cannot continue. The constant scuttlebutt emanating out of South Africa is doing further damage to an already fractured alliance, the latest being comments from Cheetahs boss Harold Verster who lauded his Union's move to the Guinness PRO14.

This week's meeting in London should be the line in the sand moment for South Africa and the SANZAAR alliance on the whole. If they commit to the alliance, then the process to reinvigorate Super Rugby can begin. If they decide to cut and run, then Australia, New Zealand, Argentina and the Asian region have an opportunity to start afresh.

If SARU heads north then Super Rugby, as we know it, should have its expiry date set at the end of the current broadcast deal. It would leave the remaining Unions roughly 18 months to sort a new competition which could take on any number of forms. But SANZAAR needs every possible moment of time to get it organised and to work out how best to accommodate for what would be a significant financial hit from South Africa's lost broadcast revenue.

What is far more likely to transpire in England this week, though, is a commitment from South Africa's administrators that they will stay in the alliance despite a number of suggestions to the contrary. And then there's the whisper they want out of Super Rugby, but hope to remain in the Rugby Championship. There's a bit about having your cake and eating it, too. But that may yet turn out to be a path SARU's current SANZAAR partners permit.

Whatever the case, if Super Rugby is to come to an end then the blueprint for what replaces it should be open to many formats.

There is evidence that manoeuvring has already begun behind the scenes, with New Zealand media reports revealing the country has already committed to a feasibility study about placing a team in the Pacific Islands. According to Newshub, the team would be made up of players from Fiji, Tonga and Samoa with Suva being the club's base. They would however play home games in both Samoa and Tonga but also potentially Auckland and Sydney.

Given the strong Pacific Island community in Western Sydney -- rugby league has also successfully staged Pacific Tests in the region with strong turnouts -- the idea of the team having a number of home grounds certainly has some merit.

And then there's this weekend's Super Rugby clash in Hong Kong, which the Sunwolves have taken away from their Tokyo base. As they sit around the table in London, SANZAAR administrators should keep an eye on the attendance at the Hong Kong National Stadium. Say what you like about the Sunwolves' performances, the atmosphere at Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium in Tokyo is among the best in Super Rugby right now.

Would the people of Hong Kong embrace Super Rugby or is it solely a sevens city? Saturday's game will be an indication either way.

Meanwhile in Perth, Andrew Forrest's World Series Rugby is up and running with Western Force playing in front of 15,000+ crowds on two occasions. Both games have enjoyed larger attendances than any Australian Super Rugby fixture this year.

Forrest may be loathed to work with Rugby Australia administrators directly. But the chance to be part of something much bigger, in the mould of his original idea of an Indo-Pacific tournament, should have SANZAAR administrators scrambling for the Rolodex and the billionaire's contact details.

Basically, any possible option should be on the table and, in fairness, SANZAAR has already indicated that is the case. A leaked strategy paper revealed expansion, despite its failures when Super Rugby went from 15 to 18 teams in 2016, was still on the table and could yet extend into the United States. However, given USA Rugby's current challenges it is believed such a prospect is not on its radar in the near future.

What SANZAAR can't do is make any moves before South African administrators indicate which path they intend to take. If it turns out to be the current setup then all four countries can set about repairing provincial rugby in the southern hemisphere.

If it is the alternate option, then so be it. There is a lot that makes sense about South Africa throwing its game in with the European lot. They just need to make an announcement either way.

SANZAAR can rubbish reports of a South African exit, like those that originated from Wales a fortnight ago, all it likes. But while ever comments such as those from Cheetahs boss Vorster continue to be aired publicly, the speculation won't go away.

That position must be made clear in London this week, the current uncertainty is only dragging Super Rugby closer and closer towards complete obscurity.