Super Rugby format under scrutiny
Cape Town - SANZAAR officials will meet in London on Friday to discuss the future of the under-fire Super Rugby format.
The tournament was expanded from 15 to 18 teams from the 2016 season, with South Africa’s Southern Kings, Argentina’s Jaguares and Japan’s Sunwolves added to the mix.
The current structure of the competition has come under heavy scrutiny.
There were some major mismatches as well as criticism of a conference system which allowed home advantage in the playoffs to some teams despite them having worse records than others.
Recent reports indicated that that the tournament could be reduced from 18 to 16 teams from 2018.
A team from South Africa and one from Australia would lose its Super Rugby status, is has been speculated.
Should that be the case, the Southern Kings and Melbourne Rebels are likely to be the unlucky ones.
The Rebels though are confident that they will survive.
The Rebels’ owner, Andrew Cox, told Australia's Daily Telegraph that if an Australian franchise was to be cut it will "highly unlikely" be the Melbourne franchise which his Imperium Capital Group bought from the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) in 2015.
"Economically I doubt the ARU could afford to do it," Cox said.
"We've got stadium deals, new facilities we've invested a lot of money in and there's significant issues with that."
He couldn't reveal details of the share, sale and purchase agreement between the Rebels and the ARU or whether there was any guarantee of their long-term future.
"We're a very important market for Fox (pay television) as we're the second best advertising market in Australia so there's a whole host of things that make it highly unlikely."
SANZAAR chief executive Andy Marinos said last year that changes could be on the cards for the competition structure in future.
In an interview with Reuters last year, Marinos said the main concerns expressed had been over the competitiveness of some teams.
"If the teams are all competing well, that does go a fair way towards managing people's expectations around the integrity of the competition. The big thrust there is getting the competitiveness back to where it was,” he said.
Australia's ability to maintain five teams and South Africa six was a "concern", Marinos admitted in the interview in September 2016.