Cape Town - SANZAAR announced on Sunday that
Vodacom Super Rugby had been restructured for 2018 and would kick off with a
three conference, 15-team format featuring four teams from South Africa, five
from New Zealand, four from Australia, one from Japan and one from Argentina.
The streamlining of the
competition comes at the end of a nine-month consultation and strategic review
process that looked at the short and long-term prospects for SANZAAR’s
The decision to reduce Super Rugby competitors by three teams was unanimously agreed by the four
SANZAAR partners. Franchises, broadcasters and fans were all engaged in the
“Fans, media and broadcasters
have spoken and we have listened to them,” said Jurie Roux, CEO of SA Rugby.
“The 18-team Super Rugby competition has not worked and we had to face
up to that hard fact. The integrity of the format and the lack of
competitiveness in too many matches were major issues that needed addressing.
“From a South African rugby high
performance perspective we’ve had to acknowledge that the dilution of talent
and resources across six franchises - at a time when rand weakness has led to
more departures to Europe and Japan - has seriously affected our ability to
compete across the board.
“As a rugby nation we need
several strong franchises all of whom are in with a serious chance of
challenging for the title and we could no longer say that. A reduction in the
number of South African franchises was the unavoidable conclusion, especially
when put in the context of SANZAAR’s long-term strategy of adding to our
tournaments’ appeal and commercial success which, in time, will mean greater
returns for SA Rugby.”
SA Rugby will now begin internal
consultations to identify its four entrants to the 2018 competition.
The newly-established Franchise
Rugby Committee (made up of representatives of all six teams) will meet on
Tuesday to finalise the criteria for selection. Their recommendation will go to
the Executive Council. Once that recommendation is agreed it will need to be
approved by the General Council of SA Rugby.
SANZAAR chairperson, Brent Impey
said: “The decision to revert to a 15-team format reflects a consensus view of
the mandated SANZAAR Executive Committee that met in London recently. It was
not the determination of any one Union or stakeholder and follows a thorough
assessment and review of the tournament over the last nine months.
“SANZAAR is delighted that its
major broadcast partners have after due consideration agreed to the
restructured format within the existing broadcast agreements. Our broadcaster
partners are an important stakeholder and their vision for Super Rugby moving
forward is the same as ours.
“This decision has not been an
easy one and we recognise the difficulty associated with reducing the number of
teams in Australia and South Africa. Naturally we understand that there will be
some very disappointed franchises but the tournament’s long-term future and the
economic reality of the business at present is something that had to be
“The decision to retain the
Sunwolves is linked directly to SANZAAR’s strategic plan for the future. The
potential for growth of the sport in Asia off the back of the establishment of
the Sunwolves and the impending RWC in 2019 is significant. It remains an obvious
focus for the organisation and a Japanese Super Rugby franchise is key to that
Roux admitted a reduction in
teams was a bitter pill for South Africa to swallow but his organisation had
faced up to the fact that retaining six teams would have put South African
rugby at an even greater risk.
“We have six strategic
imperatives for 2017 - two of the most critical of which are Springbok
performance and financial sustainability,” he said.
“Retaining a number of
under-performing teams in Super Rugby makes no sense from a high
performance or financial point of view. We no longer have the resources to
support them to the required level.”
Roux said the large number of
South Africans now playing overseas had hastened the decision: “There are about
five or six Super Rugby squads’ worth of South Africans playing
“In 2015, 257 South Africans
appeared for leading teams overseas; last year it was 313 - including 65
Springboks. There were eight Van der Merwes, seven Du Preez’s and six Du
Plessis’s alone! That has got to have had an impact on our competitiveness.”
The new format will see the
Sunwolves move into the Australian Conference while the South African
conference will continue to feature the Jaguares.
The winners of each conference
plus another five teams with the greatest number of log points will qualify for
SA franchises will play teams
from both the Australian and New Zealand conference every year although the
duration of the available ‘window’ - between the end of the compulsory rest
period and the start of the international season - means that there are not
enough weeks to play all teams.
SA Rugby said that it hoped it
would be able to confirm its 2018 Super Rugby participants by the end
of June 2017.
2018 tournament format:
• 120 match regular season plus seven finals
• 15 teams
• Three conferences
• 18 rounds (16 matches per team, two bye weeks)
• Each team will play eight matches within its conference (four home and
• Each team will play eight cross-conference matches – against four of the
five teams from the other two conferences (four at home and four away)
• Each team will have played 12 of the other teams within the season (85%
which is up from 70% in 2016).
• Eight team Finals Series: Three Conference winners and five wild card
places – the next best performing teams after the Conference winners regardless
• Conference winners and fourth-placed team on competition
points will host quarter-finals.