Southern Hemisphere’s premier club competition set to get a dramatic makeover.
The Super Rugby competition could grow to 18 teams in just under two years if SANZAR the ruling body has it way after unveiling its plans this week on increasing its market share.
A proposed 18-team and four conference model has been set forth, which will see an extra South Africa side, the Southern Kings, an Argentine side and an 18th franchise, whose location is yet to be determined as it is us for tender, added to the competition.
The Australian franchises and Rugby Union Players Association have been opponents of the four-conference model which will see an additional division in South Africa.
They were meeting with Australian Rugby Union boss Bill Pulver in a regular chief executives meeting when news broke in New Zealand on Thursday afternoon.
New Zealand officials are said to be all for the new four conference format as it would lessen the amount of travel its teams need to make if a traditional home-and-away format was proposed for a 16 or 17 team league.
— Super Rugby (@SuperRugbyAUS) May 1, 2014
“This is the best option to evolve what is already a fantastic competition and one that continues to deliver for fans, teams, players and sponsors,” NZRU boss Steve Tew said.
“From a player point of view it was important that we managed the travel of the teams.
We needed a platform that ensured our best players could continue to perform at their peak.
“Equally keeping South Africa in the regular competition was an important part of what makes Super Rugby.
“With a later start and one less match for each team in the competition, we believe we have got the balance right.”
The new model will see an increase of 120 regular season matches to 135, while the finals series will be expanded from six teams to eight.
The play-offs — held in a sudden-death format over three weeks — will feature five teams from the Australia and New Zealand conferences and three from the South African-based groups.
All four conference winners will automatically advance to the finals series plus the next three highest-ranked teams in the Australasian group and the next best team from the South African group.