Super Rugby will expand to include the Lions and Kings in SANZAR’s next broadcasting deal.
Australia won’t oppose any expansion as long as they continue to have their local derbies and the Australia Conference is strengthened by way of a possible addition from Japan.
South Africa has pushed for the Kings and Lions to be accommodated in a tournament that then services all six South African regions.
New Zealand is unlikely to want to add to their five regions but it is not out of the question, with the New Zealand RFU chief executive Steve Tew insistent that New Zealand’s only reservation would be around the playing demands on their players and also the make up of the Conference system.
New Zealand currently plays 20 derby matches and hosts 40 games in a Super Rugby season. It is anticipated that if the expansion happens it will be to Super 18 with the additional South African team, one from Japan and one from Argentina adding to the compliment.
Local derbies would remain a priority but you could find a team like the Kings playing in the Australian/New Zealand Conference and a team from Japan possibly playing in the Australian Conference/New Zealand with one from Argentina added to the South African Conference.
‘The only thing we are adamant about is that we don’t want any more rugby for our guys. We think our guys have got enough on their plates as it is. So we have to manage their workload,’ Tew told the Kiwi media.
‘But we have an open mind … nothing has been ruled out, but nothing is definite. We have to look after our players. One is that the workload doesn’t increase, two is that we don’t do anything to devalue the commercial strength of our competitions and, thirdly, they have to remain sufficiently competitive.
‘We don’t want a structure that compromises what we believe is the most competitive competition of its type in the world.’
The new format would be confirmed well in advance of it actually happening.
By Mark Keohane