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Super Rugby
Radical changes planned for Super Rugby
ESPN Staff
February 14, 2014
This year's Super Rugby competition could be one of the last in its current format © Getty Images
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The Southern Hemisphere's rugby controlling body, SANZAR, will consider a radical proposal to run Super Rugby along the lines of America's NFL, splitting the competition into four conferences with less travel for most of the teams.

The proposal was presented to the South African board's executive committee and still has a long way to go before it becomes the new format of the competition, supersport reported in South Africa. However, the proposal is currently being discussed by all three participating nations with a possible report back to SANZAR in the next few months.

Plans for change

  • Four conferences - Africa 1 and 2, Australia and New Zealand
    Australia and New Zealand would each consist of their five current Super Rugby franchises

    The two African conferences would have four teams each. The five current Super Rugby franchises plus Southern Kings would be South Africa's compliment with Argentina providing a seventh franchise

    The eighth franchise is still to be decided, but it could either be another South African team, an African franchise, or even a European franchise team such as Italy

    According to the proposal, teams would then play a double round against each other within their conferences, ie home and away

    They would also play a single round against their neighbouring conference - ie, the Africa franchises would play each other, while Australia would play the New Zealand franchises

    The competition would also add international spice with West and East facing each other, ie Africa 1 would play New Zealand teams while Africa 2 would face Australian teams and be swopped around every year

No agreement has yet been reached on how the new format should look after 2015 when the current contract ends, but gone is the idea of an 18-team format that involved three franchises of six teams and little involvement from Japan and USA.

What has been deemed important in the new proposal is the inclusion of an Argentine franchise, as well as less travelling, while keeping the same cross-continent games that have been a highlight for the competition.

Under the new proposal, SANZAR will split Super Rugby into two major conferences - East and West, as is done in American football, supersport reported. These two conferences will then be split into two again: Africa featuring in two and Australia and New Zealand one each.

After completing a round-robin aspect of the conferences, the conferences would have a knockout phase starting with quarter-finals. The final overall would then be played between the Africa winner and the Australian/New Zealand winner.

The proposals still have to be accepted by each country but are now on the table. If accepted, SANZAR will then have a mandate to discuss further with the broadcast partners and negotiate a new five-year contract for Super Rugby.

Even if this new proposal is complicated, it would mean a win-win situation for all franchises as they would still have the huge derby matches as well as the international flavour.

The reduced travel would cut costs for the teams involved, a number of which are in financial trouble, as well as making the overall package more appealing to television.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

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