SANZAR are hoping to finalise their plans for the restructuring of Super Rugby early in the new year, with local derbies shaping up as a bone of contention.
With the current broadcast deal expiring at the end of next season, speculation is rife about the form that Super Rugby will take in 2016 and beyond.
At this stage the only certainty is that there will be six South African teams involved after SARU gained assurance from SANZAR in that regard, although it is unclear whether there will be any further expansion.
There have been suggestions that teams from Argentina, Japan and the Pacific Islands could join the party, although there is nothing concrete as yet.
One hot topic will be whether the current format, which features home and away local derbies, will be retained.
However, New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) chief executive Steve Tew told Fairfax Media NZ that he is not convinced that doubling up on local derbies really does increase the viewership numbers.
“It appears looking at the numbers from this year’s competition that we haven’t increased the total number of people watching games, we’ve just moved them from some games to others,” he said.
Tew said that the players themselves are certainly not big fans of the current demanding format, as the derbies are notoriously physical.
“If you ask the high performance guys and the players, they aren’t enamoured with the idea of bashing each other up twice a year before they get together in an All Blacks side,” he said.
The derbies are particularly tiresome in the South African conference, as all of the same players are involved in the latter stages of the Currie Cup as well.
“I think the Stormers and Sharks played each other something like five times this year and we don’t want to get to the point where that’s the case here. Although I think we have a much greater differentiation between our Super Rugby teams and our NPC teams,” said Tew.
The NZRU chief said that while the way forward is unclear at the moment, there is major pressure to reach a conclusion that suits everyone as soon as possible.
“We are committed to getting this nailed early in the new year so we can present to the broadcasters on time, which is in June. Next time they meet they will almost lock themselves in a room and not come out until they’ve nailed it,” he said.