Fans will continue to see Australian Super Rugby teams take on teams from the world’s top-ranked Rugby-playing nations, with an increased focus on greater interaction between Australian and New Zealand teams and an expanded finals series, under the new structure approved by the competition’s governing body SANZAR and its Member Unions.
Australian and New Zealand Super Rugby teams will play in an Australasian Group and from 2016 all Australian teams will play all New Zealand sides each season, compared to playing four in the current format.
From 2016, Super Rugby will expand from 15 to 18 teams, with three additional teams – including teams from South Africa, Argentina and a location to be determined by a tender process.
The new structure was discussed and approved at an Australian Rugby Union strategy meeting earlier today, involving all five Australian Super Rugby CEOs and Australian Rugby Union CEO Bill Pulver.
The next step in the process will be to negotiate commercial arrangements, draw and other details of the future competition.
Key features of the new structure:
• The Australian and New Zealand Conferences will remain in their existing format (the existing five teams from Australia and five teams from New Zealand).
• The South African Conference will expand to eight teams and will be split into two conferences of four teams each.
• All Australian teams will play all New Zealand teams each season, compared to playing four New Zealand teams per season in the current structure.
• 135 regular season matches compared to 120 matches in the current competition structure and an expanded finals series, including five teams from the Australasian Group and three from the South African Group.
• Australian teams will play all teams from one of the South African Conferences each season.
• Continued cross over between Australia, New Zealand and South Africa (the top three nations in world Rugby), which is a crucial element following feedback from broadcasters.
• Each team will play 15 regular season games compared to 16 matches in the current structure – eight home and seven away, or vice versa over a two-year cycle – and two byes per team per season.
• The winner of the Australian Conference is guaranteed a home quarter final.
ARU CEO Bill Pulver said the expanded model would be a terrific new structure for the game.
“The international nature of Super Rugby makes it unique. It’s already one of the world’s most exciting provincial Rugby competitions, and with the changes announced today, it has the potential to become a truly global competition.”
“Our strong preference is for the 18th team to come from Asia as we believe this will attract significant commercial opportunities for us in the future.”
Mr Pulver said the new competition structure is an appealing proposition for broadcasters, which has the potential to deliver significant positive outcomes and growth opportunities for Rugby in Australia.
“Negotiating a significantly increased broadcast deal is the single greatest opportunity we have to increase revenue for Rugby in Australia, which will ensure we can deliver on our strategic priorities and grow the game by continuing to contribute to funding Super Rugby teams; retaining our best talent; new competitions; and by creating an overall better experience for our fan base, especially on game day.”
“We’re pleased home-and-away local derbies will continue to be a feature of Super Rugby and that we’ll increase our competitive rivalry with New Zealand by increasing the number of games we play against them.
“It’s crucial for the long-term success of the Qantas Wallabies that we’re playing the best opposition in the world on a regular basis, and this has been reinforced by the new model offering the Australasian Conference a guaranteed five of eight places in the Super Rugby Finals Series.
“With a broader pool of playing talent, more venues and extra match-ups, the new structure presents fantastic opportunities for our players and fans,” he said.
Queensland Rugby CEO Jim Carmichael said today’s agreement between the Australian Super Rugby clubs follows months of discussions between stakeholders.
“As a collective, we’ve reached agreement today. We’re confident this new Super Rugby competition structure represents the best interests of Australian Rugby, incorporating all of the factors that need to be considered for a competition of this nature.”
NSW Waratahs CEO Jason Allen said fans will see more Rugby under the new structure, “Fans will be able to watch 15 more Super Rugby matches per season under the new competition and an expanded finals series, which has an additional two matches compared to the current finals structure.”
SANZAR and its Member Unions, including the ARU, will now engage in further discussions with stakeholders and broadcasters in order to finalise all details of the competition. These include negotiations regarding commercial arrangements, draw and further details on the selection of the 18th team.