Tew: Super Rugby must keep expanding
Wellington - Further expansion of Super
Rugby is inevitable, according to New Zealand rugby boss Steve Tew, despite the
current model being criticised as unwieldy and difficult to follow.
The southern hemisphere championship has
grown from 12 sides from New Zealand, Australia and South Africa in 1996 to 18
teams this year when it spread to Japan and Argentina.
But Tew, the New Zealand Rugby chief
executive, said the competition will have to grow more if it is to survive.
"If we want to play professional
rugby, we can't just play ourselves -- we will go out of business very
quickly," he told Radio Sport on Thursday from London, where he is attending
a meeting of World Rugby.
"When we go to the next set of
broadcasting deals we've got to be sure we've got a footprint in South America,
that we've got a footprint in Asia, and possibly other markets or we will go
bust, because we continue to compete against the clubs up here."
In its formative years, Super Rugby was a
round-robin competition with the top four teams advancing to the semi-finals.
But from 2011 there has been a conference
system which this year has grown to four conferences, with the winners
guaranteed the top four places in an eight-team play-off.
Although four New Zealand teams top the
overall points tally, because of the conference system they are currently
ranked first, fifth, sixth and seventh.
One of the harshest critics of expansion
has been former Australia coach Eddie Jones, who is now at the helm of England.
"I watch most of the (Super Rugby)
games but some of the games put me to sleep," he said recently.
"I don't think the standard's great
this year. Having 18 teams in the competition, it's really dropped the
Prominent New Zealand rugby columnist Phil
Gifford said Super Rugby "has now been diluted and complicated".
"New Zealand players smash each other
to bits while the two South African-dominated conference teams, for example,
can enjoy the luxury of cruising ahead of mediocre teams," he said.
The new teams this year - Sunwolves
(Japan), Jaguares (Argentina) and Southern Kings (South Africa) - have been
placed in the two Africa conferences and between them have won just four of 27
games, with the Kings conceding on average 46 points per game.
However, Tew said while the conference
structure was complex and not perfect, it did lay a foundation for the future.
"We've set this conference structure
up so that future expansion will be possible and more sensible in terms of
travel and workload, but we've got to break into new markets," he said.