Super Rugby
South Africa proposes trans-Tasman split
ESPN Staff
July 29, 2013
The Reds' Quade Cooper steps past Jed Holloway and Peter Betham, New South Wales Waratahs v Queensland Reds, Super Rugby, ANZ Stadium, Sydney, July 13, 2013
Queensland Reds and New South Wales Waratahs may play each other more often under the proposal © Getty Images

Australia and New Zealand may form a trans-Tasman rugby competition to replace Super Rugby for 2016 and beyond, under one of three proposals put to the SANZAR nations.

South Africa will splinter from Super Rugby to form its own competition with at least six teams, and potentially an Argentinian side, under the proposal put to rugby officials from Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and Argentina, Fairfax Media reported on Sunday. The Australian and New Zealand provinces will form a second grouping and may welcome an Asian side to their competition.

The proposal, if agreed, will take effect with the new broadcasting rights deal, and SANZAR wants to have agreement by the end of this year to give all parties enough time to plan under the new framework, Fairfax reported.

SANZAR chief executive Greg Peters subsequently told Rugby 365 "the end result will as always involve working together to achieve a result that strikes a balance between the various imperatives of the three [SANZAR] unions," Peters said, confirming the organisation was working on "a number of future scenarios".

The South African Rugby Union (SARU) developed the proposal as two teams from the republic - Southern Kings and the Lions - are involved in a promotion-relegation play-off to decide which takes the conference's fifth spot in Super Rugby next year. The South African union wants to have six teams involved in Super Rugby, but such an expansion will render the conference system unworkable.

SARU chief executive Jurie Roux told Rugby 365: "Having six South African franchises in any post-2015 scenario is of paramount importance for SARU. SANZAR is aware of that and we're looking at various options as a collective."

The Australian and New Zealand unions are understood to have been swayed towards favouring the South African proposal as they believe a trans-Tasman competition will produce more derbies that develop increased gate-takings, more fan engagement in the domestic markets, easier broadcast timezone considerations, and less travel for players.

"This is against a range of principles agreed by all three SANZAR Unions, including a fundamental one of South Africa having six teams in the future structure, Peters said. "Player welfare is also a significant consideration. The challenge is with a limited number of weeks in the year, how do you create a competition that has integrity in its structure, keeps everyone involved and satisfies the needs of the three main countries."

The South African proposal, which will not affect The Rugby Championship, is one of three options on the table: the alternatives feature retention of the established three-conference system, and expanding the competition further to Asia and the United States and Canada. All parties are believed to favour a solution that includes South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Argentina.

© ESPN Australia / New Zealand

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