Aussie latest – Sidey slapped with three-week ban brings you news from Australia’s Super Rugby franchises.

Sidey slapped with three-week ban – Rory Sidey received a three-week ban after being found guilty at his disciplinary hearing on Monday.

The Force centre was cited for a dangerous tackle on Sharks wing Odwa Ndungane in the 17th minute of their clash in Perth last weekend, which resulted in a red card for Sidey as the latter was stretchered off.

Sidey will now miss the Force’s fixtures against the Blues (12 March), Lions (19 March) and Stormers (26 March).

New format a hit Down Under – Australian television network Fox Sports have reported a 58% increase in their Super Rugby viewing figures compared to 2010′s ratings.

Sanzar chief executive Greg Peters believes the derby concept of the new Super Rugby format is the reason for the rise in popularity in Australia.

‘In terms of viewership, it’s probably too early to say there is an overall trend yet, but the Australian market is on fire,’ said Peters. ”Over the opening two weeks, it is 58% up on last year to date. The first game, the Rebels-Waratahs, drew an audience of 230,000, which is twice the average for a round-robin match in Australia previously.

‘The local derby component and the conference system seem to be inspiring fan attention.’

However, Peters admitted there hasn’t been the same effect in South Africa and New Zealand.

‘It traditionally takes a while to get into the competition in New Zealand and, understandably, the focus hasn’t been on rugby, it has been on people,’ he said in reference to the Christchurch earthquake.

‘South Africa has had some strong viewership, including half a million people for some games, but overall it is trending slightly down on last year as well.’

However, Peters argued that the stadium attendances have still been high in South Africa and believes crowds in New Zealand will grow once their team performs.

‘That is a huge crowd [42,300 at the Lions/Bulls clash in week one] for that ground [Ellis Park] in recent years, and that was backed up by the Sharks-Lions in round two at 34,000 in Durban. We think it’s the local derby component.

‘New Zealand is a little coloured by the events in Christchurch, so it’s hard to get a fix on that at the moment. The old saying performance drives brand … If your team performs and is on fire then you are always going to draw more fans either via television or at the ground. Look at the Highlanders [undefeated this season] – when they return to Carisbrook, I get the feeling that will be huge.’

Pocock, Inman out for Force – David Pocock and Mitch Inman are expected to be sidelined for four to six weeks after picking up injuries against the Sharks last Saturday.

Centre Inman dislocated his elbow while openside flanker Pocock suffered medial ligament strain in his right knee midway through the first quarter of the match in Perth. Both players are only expected back in April.

Polota-Nau extends Aussie stay – Hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau has signed a two-year extension with the ARU and Waratahs, a deal that will keep him in Australia until 2013.

The hooker joins a host of Wallabies who have committed to a contract extension, including Drew Mitchell, Ben Alexander and Adam Ashley-Cooper.

However, there was bad news as Polota-Nau injured his knee against in the Waratahs’ defeat against the Crusaders last Friday. But he is expected to return for his team’s next game against the Cheetahs in the next fortnight as they enjoy a bye this weekend.