Super Rugby boss Greg Peters looks to have dashed South African hopes of expanding the tournament to 16 teams, declaring commercial arrangements won't allow it.
South Africa are desperate to get an additional team involved in a Super 16 competition next year to accommodate the Southern Kings entry into the tournament next year without having to axe one of the current five sides - the Bulls, Sharks, Lions, Stormers or Cheetahs.
They are preparing a 16-team schedule to present to their Sanzar partners New Zealand and Australia in the hope of avoiding an ugly scenario in their own back yard that will cost one of the established franchises millions if they are cast aside.
But comments from Peters, the Sanzar chief executive, suggest there is little hope for the South African plan.
"Sanzar has sold the current structure of Super Rugby to broadcasters and commercial partners for the period ending December 31 2015, so until that time expansion of the competition is not possible," Peters told SportLive in South Africa.
But the South Africans are pushing on with Saru deputy president Mark Alexander determined to present their case to their partners.
"We still have to meet with our partners in Sanzar. Greg Peters cannot decide there won't be any expansion of the tournament," Alexander told SportLive.
"That was an irresponsible statement to make. There is a window of opportunity with our partners in Sanzar.
"We are currently preparing a 16-team schedule so that we can go and debate with them."
It seems unlikely the proposal will find favour with New Zealand and Australia after considerable work when into evening the tournament structure of the Super 15 which was introduced just last year, giving each country five teams and a new-look six-teams finals format.
The new conference system has been designed to alleviate previous complaints from South African teams about the amount of travel they undertook in the old Super 12 and Super 15 systems.
This year's tournament opens on February 24 with the Blues hosting the Crusaders at Auckland's Eden Park.
- © Fairfax NZ News
Which two NZ teams look the most likely to make the Super Rugby playoffs?