SANZAAR stands by Super Rugby format
Cape Town - SANZAAR has released a statement standing by its 2016 Super Rugby format as the tournament reaches its business end.
One week of regular season remains before the tournament reaches its quarter-final stage.
But, with the competition expanded to 18 teams this year, certain corners of the rugby community have been vocal in their disapproval of the current format.
In terms if points allocation this season, four New Zealand team - the Chiefs, Hurricanes, Crusaders and Highlanders - have all accumulated more points than the Stormers and the Brumbies.
Only the Lions have more log points than any of those New Zealand franchises, yet when the quarter-finals come around next weekend only one New Zealand side will host a quarter-final while two South African sides (the Lions and Stormers) and an Australian side host the other three quarters.
This prompted Chiefs coach Dave Rennie to once again question the merits of the qualification criteria, but he is not the only one.
There are many New Zealanders who feel that their sides, despite being dominant in the tournament so far, are not being fairly rewarded.
But SANZAAR on Thursday hit back at the concerns.
"The Super Rugby competition conference format was agreed by the SANZAAR Executive Board that oversees Super Rugby," a SANZAAR release said.
"We presently have an 18-team competition that sees eight teams qualifying for the finals through this conference system.
"The finals qualification process sees the four conference winners automatically progress to the quarter-finals as hosts. The winners of the Australian, New Zealand, South Africa 1 and South Africa 2 conferences will therefore host finals. This is consistent with similar conference competition structures in the world of sport.
"The remaining four places are determined by a wild card system that will see four teams qualify for the quarter-finals to play the conference winners. This wildcard system delivers the Australia/New Zealand Group three teams and one team from the South Africa Group.
"This year through this system four New Zealand teams will qualify for the finals (conference winner and three wild cards) out of the five teams competing in Super Rugby. This is due reward for these teams based on their regular season results.
"Unfortunately there has been conjecture that the hosting criteria for the quarter-finals is unfair, largely based on the exceptional form of the New Zealand teams.
"However, SANZAAR stands by the existing qualification process. A tournament’s qualification criteria cannot be determined on one years’ results in isolation.
"Super Rugby is one of the world’s best rugby tournaments and this year’s final series is set to be exceptional, as the best teams have risen to the top through the regular season. This is reflected in the fact that going into the final round this weekend seven of the nine matches will have a direct bearing on the make-up of the quarter-finals."
The tournament final will take place on August 6.