South Africa

The Bulls scored nine tries against Ospreys at Loftus Versfeld. Image: @BlueBullsRugby via X.

Former All Black star applauds South Africa’s rugby success

Ex-All Black praises South Africa’s strategic move to the northern hemisphere, highlighting Super Rugby’s struggles.

South Africa

The Bulls scored nine tries against Ospreys at Loftus Versfeld. Image: @BlueBullsRugby via X.

All Blacks legend Ma’a Nonu asserts that Super Rugby has fallen behind Europe’s top leagues in terms of quality and excitement, according to a recent article by PlanetRugby.

The southern hemisphere’s premier club tournament, once the pinnacle of rugby, has seen interest diminish over the years.

Financial Disparities and Player Exodus

Financially, Super Rugby is overshadowed by the likes of the Top 14 and Japan Rugby League One. Consequently, several New Zealand and Australian stars have opted to head north.

The departure of South African teams at the start of the decade further impacted the tournament, with the Bulls, Lions, Sharks, and Stormers joining the United Rugby Championship (URC).

A Beneficial Move for South Africa

This shift has proven beneficial for South African franchises, elevating the standard of the URC, formerly known as the PRO14.

Nonu believes that the Top 14, URC, and even the Premiership – despite its financial troubles – have surpassed 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,” Nonu stated on the Kick Offs and Kick Ons podcast.

“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’s Success Story

Nonu praises South Africa’s decision to leave SANZAAR, citing their improvement. “South Africa have hit the jackpot. The Stormers played the first year in the URC and won the competition,” he noted.

“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.”

The Major League Rugby (MLR) Perspective

At 41, Nonu continues to play, recently extending his contract with San Diego Legion for the 2024 Major League Rugby season.

When comparing MLR to the world’s top leagues, Nonu candidly remarked, “In a nice way, it’s probably at the bottom,” but acknowledged its nascent stage.

“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,” Nonu explained.


Nonu’s insights highlight the shifting dynamics in global rugby. The financial muscle and star power of European leagues have eclipsed Super Rugby, prompting southern hemisphere talents to migrate north.

Meanwhile, South Africa’s strategic move to the URC has paid off, enhancing the league’s quality. Although Super Rugby remains competitive, its future and standing in the rugby hierarchy appear uncertain amidst these changes.