SANZAAR CEO Andy Marinos has branded reports of a South African exodus as 'simply wrong' and expressed disappointment at reports of possible structures beyond 2020.
A report out of Wales overnight said that South Africa's Sharks, Lions and Stormers were considering moving to the European competition in the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 seasons, joining the Cheetahs and the Kings.
But SANZAAR, organisers of Super Rugby and the Rugby Championship said the report was unfounded and South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Argentina remained committed to future participation.
SANZAAR CEO Andy Marinos rubbished those reports in a statement on Monday morning, and also expressed his frustration that the longer-term possibilities had been revealed in media reports.
"SANZAAR - through its joint venture partners - Australia, Argentina, New Zealand and South Africa - is currently engaged in a detailed strategic planning process that will deliver a road-map for the organisation, Super Rugby and The Rugby Championship from 2018-2030," the statement read.
"As part of this process the partners have fully committed to the strategy and future participation.
"Any talk of a change to the stakeholder relationship and partners withdrawing, and so-called trans-Tasman competitions is unsubstantiated speculation and simply wrong."
Despite the Lions finding success in Super Rugby in recent years, South Africa's timezone is more compatible with a European competition.
The South African sides have also struggled with player exodus in recent seasons, as many players opt to move to Europe, something that it is believed would be reduced with a competition switch.
Reports last week suggested SANZAAR was considering a multitude of possibilities for the future of the competition, but that nothing had been decided.
“Everything has been on the table – status quo, expansion, contraction, competition formats, etc - as part of our initial blue-sky thinking. We basically started with a blank piece of paper and now we are doing the detailed analysis on what is viable, sustainable and best for our competitions," Marinos said in a statement.
“There is an incredible amount of detailed work taking place in this review and we have specialist groups working across all aspects of the review. Therefore it is very disappointing that various aspects of the initial work in terms of potential tournament formats been taken out of context and aired in public.”
Significantly, Marinos said that expansions wouldn't necessarily mean adding more teams to the competition.
"Potential expansion into new markets for example should not be confused with only an increase in teams. We are already in the process of taking the established product to new markets. Matches being played in Singapore, Hong Kong, Fiji and Samoa are examples of this," the statement read.
“We are especially mindful at present that we have just come out of a process that has seen a contraction of Super Rugby. The introduction of new teams or any form of expansion would need to meet a defined set of criteria that have been established."