Brenden Nel, SuperSport
Johannesburg - SANZAR will consider a
radical proposal to re-align the Super Rugby competition along the lines
of the NFL, splitting the competition into four conferences with less
travel for most of the teams.
According to the supersport.com website, the proposal, which was presented to the South African Rugby Union (SARU) Exco
on Thursday, still needs to travel a long way before it becomes the new
format of the competition, but is being discussed by all three countries
at the moment with a possible report back to SANZAR in the next few
The new proposal will see an upswing in revenue for the SARU as well as the virtual guarantee of having a South African
team in the final of any future Super Rugby competition.
With the current Vodacom Super Rugby format not that popular among
players and fans, with complaints about travel, fatigue and injuries
over the 19-week competition, no agreement has yet been reached on how a
new format should look after 2015 when the current SANZAR contract
SARU are known to be in discussions with several European bodies at the
moment, looking at alternative competitions, but it is unlikely that
South African teams would join the Heineken Cup in its current format.
However, a new competition may well be on the cards involving European
teams if no agreement in the Super Rugby question is reached.
Gone is the 18-team format idea, the proposal that gives three
franchises of six teams and mooted involvement from Japan and the USA.
What has been underlined is the importance of admitting an Argentinean
franchise into the Super Rugby fold, and the new proposal will see less
travelling while keeping the same cross-continent games that have been a
hallmark of the competition.
Under the radical proposal now being considered, SANZAR will split the
Super Rugby into two major conferences – East and West, as is done in
American Football. These two conferences will then be split into two
again: Africa getting two separate conferences, Australia and New
Zealand one each.
In other words, the proposal sees Super Rugby working as follows:
• 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 the Southern Kings would be South
Africa’s compliment with Argentina providing a seventh franchise.
• The eighth franchise is still to be decided, but 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 would 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.
After the round robin aspect of the conferences is played, the East and
West conferences will have their own quarter- and semi-finals to
determine a finalist.
The final would then be played between the Africa
winner and the Australia/New Zealand winner.
A massive plus of the complicated proposal would see each country
keeping its host broadcasting revenue, as opposed to the current system
where South Africa contributes 45% of the money and only receives 33%
share of the income.
The proposals still have to be accepted by each country, but are now on
the table. Once accepted, they will then head back to SANZAR, who will
then have a mandate to discuss further with the broadcast partners and
negotiate a new five-year contract for Super Rugby.
But even if it is complicated, it would mean a win-win situation for
franchises who would still have derby matches as well as an
international flavour, with South African interest all but guaranteed
until the end of the tournament.