Restoring greater competition in Australia and South Africa's Super Rugby teams has become of SANZAAR's major priorities, CEO Andy Marinos says.
This season just one Australian team made the finals, with the Brumbies gaining automatic qualification by winning the conference, while the New Zealand teams dominated the competition.
Japan’s battling Sunwolves were a major worry for SANZAAR CEO Andy Marinos at the beginning of the season but with a new coach and more freedom, the Australian and South African sides’ performances has become a bigger issue for Super Rugby’s governing body.
Marinos, speaking after last week's SANZAAR Review meetings involving national and franchise CEOs, said there was work to do to even out the competition.
“I think there’s bigger challenges in Australia and South Africa around the competitiveness (of the conferences),” he said.
“The Sunwolves are not going to be the biggest challenge, their performances have improved and they’ve got some consistency.
“They kicked off the season with some good performances and they’re like the Jaguares, it’s tough to play at that intensity all year but certainly we’ll see a marked improvement from them.”
Both Australia’s Western Force and South Africa’s struggling Kings side have been absorbed by their national bodies, but Marinos said national intervention wasn’t a one size fits all plan.
“Every market’s different, in Australia there’s a mixture of private equity and centralisation,” he said.
“Private equity is predominant in South Africa, it’s only the Kings that have South African Rugby involvement and in New Zealand it’s a mix again of private equity and centralisation,
The by-product of the Super Rugby results has been seen starkly in the Rugby Championship, with the All Blacks undefeated so far with a clash against the Springboks to come, but Marinos said the gulf wouldn’t last.
“I think you see it all the time coming out of Super Rugby competition, performance builds confidence the professionalism and intensity, confident mindset individually and collectively game is intact
"South Africa, albeit the lions performed admirably, have had to do quite a lot of adjusting, and rebuiliding and Australia had slightly different Super Rugby campaign but the signs are there as competition progresses in their performances.
“People tend to focus on the bad side but all four teams at the top of world rugby and they don’t become bad teams overnight, it’s just a player resource and confidence thing."
The 2017 Super Rugby draw will be released on Tuesday but Marinos said there wouldn’t be any drastic changes to this year’s structure, which is currently under a long-term review.
The results of a months-long SANZAAR and Super Rugby review are likely to be announced by the end of the year, with the entire competition structure under review.
Reports have suggested a smaller competition is on the radar, with the possibility of axing an Australian team, but Marinos said any structural changes would not happen until at least 2018.