Australian Rugby Union Boss Bill Pulver has revealed details about the proposed expanded format for Super Rugby from 2016.
Super Rugby’s organizers SANZAR want to expand the 15 team tournament as they believe it will bring in more money for the South African, Australian and New Zealand Rugby Unions.
Pulver says that he has backed a format with 18 teams in a four conference format from 2016.
There are currently 15 teams divided into three equal geographic conferences made up of five teams.
Pulver says that from 2016 the New Zealand and Australian conference will remain at five teams but South Africa will have two conference of four teams.
South Africa currently have five teams and the Southern Kings, and a new Argentine team and another side – possibly from Asia – will be added to make eight teams.
These eight teams will be divided in two two groups of four and are expected to be based in South Africa.
Those two four-team conferences will only face one of the two Australasian conferences each year, which reduces the amount of travel.
Currently Australian teams only play four of the five New Zealand teams a year but that will be increased to five matches.
Australian teams will also play two less “local derby” matches a season – dropping from eight to six, and meaning one less home game every second year – and this has upset the Reds, Waratahs and Brumbies who believe it will see them go bust.
Pulver however said that less was more for the Melbourne Rebels and Western Force.
“In Brisbane, Sydney and Canberra they work very well,” he said. “In Melbourne and Perth those two franchises aren’t too excited in home derbies.”
“It’s likely to be a four-conference model and this will be finalized in the next couple of weeks to be announced,” Pulver told AAP.
Pulver has backed the proposed changes as the best model to improve the competition and importantly boost broadcasting revenue.
“I’m more than happy to go along with it,” said Pulver.
“I think it will be a terrific structure for the game.”
Currently the top team from each Conference qualifies for the Super Rugby finals so if the rules are retained then South Africa will almost certainly have two teams in the Super Rugby finals each year.
One of those qualifying teams will have a considerably easier route to the finals as they would have missed out on playing one of the Australasian Conferences.
Figures released last week suggest Super Rugby’s viewer numbers are down almost 10% in South Africa where most of the broadcast money comes from and overall interest in Super Rugby appears to be waning.
The two bottom teams currently in Super Rugby are from South Africa. When the Southern Kings played in Super Rugby last year they finished last.
SANZAR’S PROPOSED MODEL FOR 2016
Teams: 18 – current 15 plus Southern Kings (RSA), Argentine team, plus one more
Conferences: 4 – Australia (5 teams), New Zealand (5), two based in South African (4 each, including one expansion team)
Matches: 15 per team