World Cup-winning coach Jake White has backed SANZAAR’s decision to cut two South African teams from Super Rugby, citing it as a possible "catalyst" to boost the Springboks’ fortunes.
SANZAAR announced plans last week to axe three clubs from the current 18-team format for the 2018 season, with one coming from Australia and two from South Africa.
That means all five New Zealand franchises remain, as do Jaguares from Argentina, and Sunwolves from Japan – although the latter will move to the Australian conference from next season.
Rebels and Western Force have been named as the two sides being considered for removal by the Australian Rugby Union, but the six South African teams will have to wait until June to discover their fate.
Some have criticised the decision to change the competition, but White – who guided the Springboks to World Cup glory in 2007 and has coached Brumbies and Sharks in Super Rugby – believes it is the right move to help improve the standard of competition.
In particular White hopes the trimming of South African sides will help increase competitiveness, which should in turn raise standards and help the national team.
"Reducing the number of Super Rugby teams is a great decision and it may be the catalyst for South African rugby to lead the way again," White wrote in All Out Rugby.
"I’m not sure that the solutions that the SANZAAR partners will come up with are going to be the right ones, but the main thing is they’ve recognised that, among several issues, the tournament is unfair, depending on which pool you’re in and how many games you play away from home.
"The competition organisers are sitting on a pile of historical data which shows that when it was Super 6, Super 10 and Super 12, those were very, very good tournaments.
"At the start, we didn’t have franchises like the Stormers, Lions and the Highlanders, it was Western Province, Transvaal and Otago. Most of the guys who played for South Africa in the 1995 Rugby World Cup were with Kitch Christie at Transvaal in those days.
"People often don’t want to hear ‘in the old days’, but the point is that the history of this competition shows that was a great product.
"This Super Rugby trim will obviously be very distressing for the people who stand to lose their jobs, but in all fairness, I think most would agree that there should never have been an expansion of the competition.
"The decision-makers have taken on board what they’ve heard from the stakeholders and, in this case, the message is clear – less is more."
And White has suggested a shake-up of South Africa’s sides might be in order, rather than just cutting two teams.
"The real debate should be around how we will package those four Super Rugby teams from a South African point of view," he added.
"Our decision-makers mustn’t be scared to look at change if it means it’s going to help the Springboks in the long-term.
"And that’s what makes me think this change may be the first step in South African rugby taking great strides forward."
South Africa have slipped to seventh in the world rankings.