Uncertainty remains over Super Rugby revamp

RICHARD KNOWLER
Last updated 05:05 22/02/2014

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Squeezing further South African and Argentinian teams into Super Rugby is certain to result in another radical competition revamp but no-one is saying how it can be done.

With Sanzar agreeing to a "preferred model" from 2016, the existing conference system must be changed to accommodate 17 teams from New Zealand, South Africa, Australia and Argentina.

The mystery is how Sanzar propose this can be achieved; the major issue with including Argentina is that teams from New Zealand and Australia will have to fly long distances.

This could be negated by lumping the South African and Argentinian teams into one conference, and the Australasian sides in the other, and only having cross-over games during the play-offs but that has already drawn criticism from the South Africans who were adamant they wouldn't allow it.

NZ Rugby Players Association boss Rob Nichol said yesterday that player welfare was paramount but urged fans to be patient, stating the new format had yet to be locked in.

Nichol confirmed the NZ players have informed of the new proposal.

Derbies have proved popular in New Zealand and South Africa, coaches and players have expressed concern about playing high-intensity games on a regular basis.

The New Zealand and South Africa provinces are also worried about the derbies drawing fans away from their domestic NPC and Currie Cup competitions.

Sydney-based Sanzar boss Greg Peters said that the new format must be approved by each of the national unions before being taken to the broadcasters.

Previously he has indicated the length of the competition would not be extended and Sanzar hoped to shift the June test window until after Super Rugby competition ended.

"There will not be any more weeks in Super rugby, I can guarantee that.

"We are at the maximum point with 21 weeks, which allows each team 16 pool games, two byes and a possible three-week run in the finals."

It's likely that the broadcasters have been kept informed throughout and will receive no nasty surprises when the new structure is presented.

"We now need to talk to our board and other partners," New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew said yesterday.

"There are always challenges in a new structure but we're optimistic that we're on the right track to deliver a competition that is exciting for broadcasters, players and our fans."

Former All Blacks coach Graham Henry, who was in the Argentina coaching crew for the last two seasons, believed the Sanzar partner would be better served by not having all the test players together. He hoped some would be spread around other teams in the competition.

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