Sanzar has reaffirmed its commitment to a 15-team Super Rugby competition run in a conference-type system from 2011.
There are expected to be three conferences – Australia, South Africa and New Zealand – with teams in the same conference playing each other on a home and away basis. The leading teams in each conference will then progress to an extended finals stage.
This format will help to reduce the travel factor, especially for South African sides. It will also ensure that more local derbies take place and that all three nations are represented in the play-offs, which will please SA Rugby.
“We want a system that is going to be attractive to all, and we found a few years ago when we had a home final in South Africa just how massive it is to have a play-off game in your own country both financially and in terms of interest,’ acting MD Andy Marinos told SA Rugby magazine recently.
“It makes a lot of sense for broadcasters if we ensure that all of the nations are still represented in the competition when the play-off stage arrives. The competition does become a lot more attractive to the broadcaster if they know that we are not going to go into the final three weeks or a month and one of the three nations no longer has an interest.”
The competition is also set to start later in the year, probably March – after players complained about playing in stifling February heat more suited for cricket – and finish in August (instead of May).
However, Sanzar has yet to confirm which team will be added to the existing 14. Australia is keen to have a fifth side based in Melbourne or even Japan, while South Africa wants another spot for the revived Eastern Cape franchise. New Zealand is also said to be interested in fielding a sixth franchise.
While Argentina and the Pacific Islands will not be represented in Super Rugby, they could still form part of an extended Tri-Nations tournament. The involvement of the USA remains less clear.
Sanzar will present their new proposal in June to broadcasters News Limited, which has first right of refusal.