USA, Japan to join Super Rugby?

Greg Peters says the Super Rugby competition could expand in 2016 to include teams from outside of the Sanzar nations.

The Sanzar CEO told this website earlier in the week that the 15-team format will remain intact until the current broadcasting deal expires at the end of 2015.

In 2016, South Africa may well push for six teams in an expanded competition, but Peters said it’s more likely that Sanzar will look to teams from the USA and Japan to join the tournament.

‘From broadcast revenue and commercial revenue perspectives there are some very big markets out there that are potential markets that Sanzar might want to explore on the back of the growing impact of sevens and the [2016] Olympics,’ Peters told Fairfax Media.

‘There are absolutely possibilities within the States and Japan for increased television revenue and a lot of that has to do with sevens being in the 2016 Olympics.

‘I don’t think anything is off the table at all post-2015 and, particularly with the conference format, you can add other conferences or you could add teams to the current conferences. There are lots of different things that can be done with the format that we have now got. It’s one of the attractions of this format.’

Peters admitted that the current rugby calendar has no space for more Super Rugby rounds, and that an expanded tournament in 2016 would demand a revision of the tournament structure.

‘We always have to remember that we do this for what’s in the best interests of rugby and commercial revenue for the three Sanzar countries,’ he said.

And the USA and Japan aren’t the only countries that could join a revamped regional competition. With Argentina now a part of Sanzar’s Test showpiece, the Rugby Championship, it could be just a matter of time before a side from the South American country debuts in Super Rugby.

What seems increasingly unlikely is that South Africa will have its way in 2013 and field all six Super Rugby franchises. NZRU’s general manager of professional rugby, Neil Sorensen said neither Australia nor New Zealand are keen on this idea.

‘It is possible, but it’s an absolute nightmare,’ he told Sunday News. ‘It’s a mess and it also goes against the conference type situation.

‘New Zealand and Australia will do some more work on this, but our preference is to stay with five teams in each and South Africa will have to deal with what five teams they put into their conference.

‘I can empathise with the situation they are in but I also think it’s exciting having a team coming out of the Eastern Cape. But we’ve just got to let the South Africans work through this.’