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    Two-conference Super Rugby?

    2013-08-29 07:46
    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.

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