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South Africa, Australia to lose teams in revamped Super Rugby

The drastic restructure comes amid financial losses and widespread fan discontent over the confusing and unbalanced competition.

File pic.
File pic.
Image: Joe Giddens

TWO SOUTH AFRICAN teams and one from Australia will be axed from the revamped 2018 Super Rugby competition, governing body SANZAAR said on Sunday.

The current 18-team competition will be streamlined to a three conference, 15-team format with five teams from New Zealand, four from Australia, four from South Africa, and one each from Japan and Argentina, SANZAAR said.

SANZAAR has left it to the national rugby unions involved to announce the teams to be cut, although Australia’s Western Force and South Africa’s Southern Kings and Central Cheetahs are widely regarded as the most vulnerable franchises.

The drastic restructure comes amid financial losses and widespread fan discontent over the confusing and unbalanced competition.

With games played in cities straddling 15 time zones, travel schedules can be intense, while the quality of play has been criticised and the tournament is deemed hard for fans to follow.

Argentina’s Jaguares and the Sunwolves of Japan, admitted last year along with the Kings, will stay in the revamped 15-team Super Rugby tournament.

SANZAAR said that the Sunwolves will play in the Australian conference in 2018.

This restructuring by SANZAAR represents a crucial step in its strategic planning process that has included a comprehensive assessment of the economic and sporting environment under which its tournaments (Super Rugby and The Rugby Championship) are currently operating,” SANZAAR said in a statement.

“This assessment highlighted a need to adjust and strengthen Super Rugby in the short-term to ensure a robust and sustainable tournament meets the requirements of all stakeholders in terms of high performance pathways, game development, commercial revenue and fan engagement.”

SANZAAR CEO Andy Marinos added: “This has been a long and complex piece of work and we make no apology for that.

Super Rugby is unique in world rugby in that it is played in six countries across 15 time zones and has numerous stakeholders.”

The Australian Rugby Union said it will address the Super Rugby competition restructure at a media conference in Sydney on Monday.

Jurie Roux, CEO of SA Rugby said: “Fans, media and broadcasters have spoken and we have listened to them.

The 18-team Super Rugby competition has not worked and we had to face up to that hard fact.

“From a South African rugby high performance perspective we’ve had to acknowledge that the dilution of talent and resources across six franchises — at a time when rand weakness has led to more departures to Europe and Japan — has seriously affected our ability to compete across the board.”

New Zealand Rugby CEO Steve Tew welcomed SANZAAR’s restructure as “an important response to the current environment”.

“From a New Zealand perspective, the strength of all teams is essential to ensure that New Zealand clubs can be successful on and off the field, while providing a fantastic platform for the best players in the world to be on display,” he said.

© – AFP 2017

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