Unions confirm Super Rugby changes

Date published: May 1 2014

The NZRU's Steve Tew, ARU's Bill Pulver and SARU's Jurie Roux have all discussed the approved expansion of Super Rugby.

The NZRU's Steve Tew, ARU's Bill Pulver and SARU's Jurie Roux have all discussed the approved expansion of Super Rugby from 2016.

Tew said the new structure had been approved and confirmed by all SANZAR nations and Argentina following a thorough consultation and negotiation process with national Unions, Super Rugby organisations and teams and will now form the basis for negotiations with the competition's broadcast partners.

“We wanted Super Rugby to remain a competitive, entertaining and commercially viable competition, one players enjoy being part of and we think this structure ticks all those boxes,” said Tew.

“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.

“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. We also believe we have a competition that will continue to feed a winning All Blacks team.

“From a fans' perspective, there will still be plenty of derbies to enjoy as well as top rugby from the best players in the world. Now we have a great opportunity to ensure Super Rugby continues to flourish in what is an increasingly competitive market for sports fans' attention.”

Pulver added that the deal was the best way to increase revenue for Rugby Union in Australia.

“he international nature of Super Rugby makes it unique. It's already one of the world's most exciting provincial Rugby competitions, and with the changes announced today, it has the potential to become a truly global competition,” said Pulver.

“Our strong preference is for the 18th team to come from Asia as we believe this will attract significant commercial opportunities for us in the future.

“Negotiating a significantly increased broadcast deal is the single greatest opportunity we have to increase revenue for Rugby in Australia, which will ensure we can deliver on our strategic priorities and grow the game by continuing to contribute to funding Super Rugby teams; retaining our best talent; new competitions; and by creating an overall better experience for our fan base, especially on game day.

“We're pleased home-and-away local derbies will continue to be a feature of Super Rugby and that we'll increase our competitive rivalry with New Zealand by increasing the number of games we play against them.

“It's crucial for the long-term success of the Wallabies that we're playing the best opposition in the world on a regular basis, and this has been reinforced by the new model offering the Australasian Conference a guaranteed five of eight places in the Super Rugby Finals Series.

“With a broader pool of playing talent, more venues and extra match-ups, the new structure presents fantastic opportunities for our players and fans.”

Roux stated that the “radical” changes would take the tournament to the next level.

“The new format and the expansion into what could potentially be two new continents for Super Rugby is a radical departure for the competition but one that takes the competition to the next level,” said Roux.

“We will have had 20 years of Super Rugby by the time this new structure comes into place and the competition has grown and matured in that time to the place where it was ready to start pushing into new territories.

“The agreed design satisfies the needs of South African rugby, which was built around a number of key principles from SARU's perspective.

“The agreed format delivers on a reduction in the historic travel burden on our players as well as answering our need for a sixth place in the competition.

“We are delighted to welcome a new entrant from our old friends, Argentina, and there is also a reduction in the number of South African derbies, which are seen as being particularly attritional on our players.

“It was a long hard, negotiation with a large number of alternative formats considered and discarded because they did not fulfil the key criteria. This new model offers a major new step forward for Super Rugby with the potential to grow further.”

Super Rugby from 2016

The Competition:

• Expanded competition to 18 teams from 2016 – South Africa 6th, Argentina, plus new team
• Shorter competition – from 21 weeks to 20 weeks
• All teams play one less match in a regular season – from 16 matches to 15
• Four conferences playing in two regional Groups – South Africa and Australasia
• The Australasia Group made up of two conferences – Australia (five teams) and New Zealand (five teams)
• South African Group made up of two conferences – South Africa 1 (three teams plus one from Argentina), and South Africa 2 (three teams plus the 18th team)
• Each team plays 15 regular season matches – eight home/seven away or vice versa every second year
• A total 135 regular season matches and seven Finals Series matches (compared to 120 and five)

The Finals Series … eight contenders, three weeks:

• Playoff format features an eight-team knock-out Finals Series playing in a quarters, semis and final format
• Five teams qualify from the Australasia Group, three teams from the South Africa Group
• All four conference winners automatically advance to Finals Series
• The next three highest ranked teams in the Australasia Group and the next highest team in the South Africa Group, will make up the wildcard contenders, and also advance to the Finals Series