Ma’a Nonu claims South Africa ‘hit the jackpot’ with northern hemisphere move as Super Rugby ‘suffers’

Colin Newboult
All Blacks legend Ma'a Nonu.

All Blacks legend Ma'a Nonu.

All Blacks legend Ma’a Nonu believes that Super Rugby has fallen behind the big European leagues in terms of quality and excitement.

The southern hemisphere’s premier club tournament once led the way in the world game, but interest has waned over the years.

Financially, it is dwarfed by the likes of the Top 14 and the Japan Rugby League One, and some of the New Zealand and Australian stars have decided to head north as a result.

Super Rugby also lost the South African teams at the start of the decade, with the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers eventually joining the United Rugby Championship.

A beneficial move

It has proven to be a successful move for those franchises and has helped improve the standard of what used to be called the PRO14.

Nonu therefore believes that the Top 14, URC and the Premiership – despite the latter’s fiscal struggles – are ahead of Super Rugby Pacific.

“I think the Top 14 edges Super Rugby two notches. For one, you’ve got the best players in the world in that competition,” he told the Kick Offs and Kick Ons podcast.

“I hadn’t mentioned the Prem and the URC because I haven’t played there, but I would say they come second and third, or maybe second equal.

“Super Rugby is still good footy because you’ve got the Australian and Kiwi players, but they haven’t got the exposure to all the other players from other countries.

“South Africa have hit the jackpot. They left because of SANZAAR, but their teams have gotten better and better. The Stormers played the first year in the URC and won the competition.

“Super Rugby’s maybe suffering, I don’t know how long it’s going to be around. The level’s still there, but I believe the Top 14 is ahead.”

Where the MLR stands

Nonu, who is a two-time Rugby World Cup winner, is still playing at the age of 41, having agreed a one-year extension with San Diego Legion ahead of the 2024 Major League Rugby season.

The great centre was asked to compare the MLR to the top leagues in the world and stated: “In a nice way, it’s probably at the bottom”, but added that it is very much a new competition.

“The MLR’s just starting out, it’s been going for seven years. You’ve got a lot of players who can’t play Super Rugby or the Prem or in France, so they come to the States,” he said.

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