Two-conference Super Rugby?
Sydney - Australian rugby boss Bill Pulver has backed a proposal for
Australia and New Zealand to form part of a two-conference Super Rugby
competition in 2016.
According to the stuff.co.nz website, Pulver said the plan, being proposed as a way of accommodating South
Africa's demand for a permanent sixth team, was discussed at an
Australian Rugby Union board meeting on Tuesday. ''The current (three-conference) model is acceptable but the other option is not a bad
outcome for us either,'' he said. ''Both are workable from an
Australian perspective ... If it did evolve to an Australasian
conference that would be a good option.''
The chairmen and chief executives of the SANZAR nations are meeting
in Sydney next week to discuss what form the Super Rugby competition
will take when the new broadcasting deal takes effect from 2016.
The South African Rugby Union's demand that both the Kings and Lions
form a permanent part of the competition cannot be accommodated within
the existing three-conference model. There is also momentum gathering
for Argentina to join Super Rugby, with former Pumas captain and UAR
board member Agustin Pichot telling South African media his country's
entry at provincial level was vital.
Both could be achieved under a two-conference model. Under one
possibility South Africa and potentially Argentina would form one
conference and New Zealand and Australia the other. The top eight or so
sides across the conferences would then meet in a finals series.
The ARU is understood to see merit in any model that would cut
travel for players and result in more Australia-New Zealand matches,
which attract higher broadcast ratings and gate-takings at matches.
''The outcomes we're looking for are to optimise the financial benefit
from a broadcasting perspective, we're looking to protect player welfare
and we also want to excite and engage our fans with the right
competition structures,'' Pulver said. ''And if we're looking at a cost
perspective then the amount of travel the Australian teams do are
clearly relevant to that.''
SANZAR wants to have a format agreed by Christmas. It will also be
influenced by a push to move the mid-year Test window from June to July
and have Super Rugby wrapped up before then. Argentina, now part of the
Rugby Championship, will also be represented at next week's meeting.
Pichot will weigh in via telephone and is a vocal supporter of a Super
Rugby expansion plan that makes room for an Argentinian team.
Their inclusion was backed this week by New Zealand Rugby Union chief
Steve Tew, who also signalled the addition of a Japanese or other Asian
team. ''If we are going to expand then there's probably room for
expansion in more territories than just Argentina,'' he said.