Local derbies are up for debate in Super Rugby

TOBY ROBSON
Last updated 13:22 13/12/2013
Crusaders
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DERBIES GONE? SANZAR officials will lock themselves in a room and try to unravel their Super Rugby riddle.

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SANZAR officials will lock themselves in a room in the new year and try to unravel their Super Rugby riddle with local derbies set to be among a host of hotly debated issues.

About all that's certain is South Africa will have six teams in the new competition when it kicks off in 2016 after the current broadcasting agreement runs out.

New Zealand Rugby Union chief executive Steve Tew said today opinions were split on whether the current home and away local derbies should be retained or scrapped.

''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,'' Tew said before revealing New Zealand's top players were not all in favour.

''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.''

Super Rugby's future format was among a number of issues discussed yesterday during the NZRU's final board meeting for 2013.

The current draw sees teams from New Zealand, South Africa and Australia play each other both home and away each season.

The derbies are particularly unpopular in South Africa where they were seen as a double up on the domestic Currie Cup fixtures.

That issue has also been raised in New Zealand with Crusaders chief executive Hamish Riach saying recently it was reducing interest in the national provincial championship.

''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,'' Tew said. ''Although I think we have a much greater differentiation between our Super Rugby teams and our NPC teams.''

Like every issue on the table, there were pros and cons, but Tew said Sanzar were confident they could iron out a deal that appealed to all concerned.

''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,'' he said. ''Next time they meet they will almost lock themselves in a room and not come out until they've nailed it.''

The issue of a sixth South African team was a ''plank'' of current negotiations, while there was a common will to include Argentina.

However, the latter came with a number of complications in terms of travel, draws, and cost and it remained to be seen whether it was a viable option for 2016.

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Other options on the table included a 17-teams competition, separate conferences, extended playoffs, and a full round robin.

''You name it we are looking at it to see if it will work,'' Tew said.

On the international front, the All Blacks continued to look at playing an extra test next year on the East Coast of the United States.

The venue and opposition had not been decided.

''You can draw a line from Chicago to New York and somewhere in there you'd probably find where we're we will land if we can pull it off.''

Tew revealed he had been approached this year by a dozen countries around the world about hosting an All Black test.

And on the domestic front the NZRU's forecast indicates all of its 26 provincial unions will break even or post a modest profit for 2013.

- Fairfax Media

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