The Australian Rugby Union is open to an overhaul of Super Rugby that would see more trans-Tasman derbies and up to two Argentinian teams included in the competition.
- August 8, 2013 – 6:16PM
New challenge: up to two Argentinian teams could included in a revamped competition. Photo: AFP
Super Rugby’s governing body, SANZAR, is under pressure to include a sixth South African team in the competition from 2016 and believes the best way of doing so is to cut the current three-conference system down to two conferences that would not play each other until a finals series.
One conference would include the current Australian and New Zealand teams and the other would include six South African teams and up to two sides from Argentina.
ARU chief executive Bill Pulver would not commit to a preferred model on Thursday but said he supported the inclusion of Argentina, which is playing its second season in the Rugby Championship this year.
It is also understood that while Australia might have preferred to stay with the current three conference model during previous discussions, the prospect of less travel and more marketable derby-style matches between New Zealand and Australian sides has the ARU looking closely at the proposal.
Australian teams would play each other twice and all New Zealand teams once before meeting the top three or four teams from the eight-team South Africa-Argentina conference.
It is becoming less and less likely that Super Rugby in its current format will exist beyond the next Rugby World Cup.
Its new shape is expected to be decided on by the SANZAR nations and Argentina by the end of this year.
A further expansion including an Asian team, possibly Japan, is also on the cards. But Pulver said there was no plan to include a Pacific Islands-based franchise.
Also in the works for 2016 is a new international calendar that would see the June internationals window moved to July and Super Rugby finishing before that break.
The International Rugby Players’ Association has been behind the push, with the SANZAR nations and England’s Premiership Rugby clubs on board.
“I am very enthusiastic about the possibility of having that change,” Pulver said. “Having a Test series take place in June is really quite inconvenient from a Super Rugby perspective. Having to break the competition for a month, particularly for those teams not in the finals series, is very disruptive.”
Wallabies and Waratahs No.7 Michael Hooper also backed the move, saying it made sense to “clean up” the calendar.
“As Waratahs we had to break up for a couple of weeks, come back, play one game against the Reds,” Hooper said. “It’s difficult, while the main squad is training throughout that window you lose guys, guys come back, and it would just clean up the year. I think most players would be for that.”