Super Rugby
Super Rugby expanded to 18 teams
ESPN Staff
May 1, 2014
The new format for Super Rugby © SANZAR

Super Rugby will expand to 18 teams in time for the 2016 season.

The proposed plans were ratified on Thursday with the three extra sides coming from South Africa, the Southern Kings the likely team, Argentina and one from either America or Asia.

The existing structure for the Australian and New Zealand franchises will stay the same but the South African conference will expand to eight teams with Argentina joining three South African franchises in one pool and the yet to be announced franchise joining the other three in a separate group.

The new competition

  • Expanded competition to 18 teams from 2016 - South Africa 6th, Argentina, plus new team
  • Shorter competition - from 21 weeks to 20 weeks
  • All teams play one less match in a regular season - from 16 matches to 15
  • Four conferences playing in two regional Groups - South Africa and Australasia
  • The Australasia Group made up of two conferences - Australia (five teams) and New Zealand (five teams)
  • South African Group made up of two conferences - South Africa 1 (three teams plus one from Argentina), and South Africa 2 (three teams plus the 18th team)
  • Each team plays 15 regular season matches - eight home/seven away or vice versa every second year
  • A total 135 regular season matches and seven Finals Series matches (compared to 120 and five)

The new structure will have 135 regular season games compared to 120 and each side will play 15 games compared to the current tally of 16. The play-off structure will see eight teams through to the quarter-finals with five teams qualifying from the Australasian groups and three from the South Africa pools.

The new plans have received widespread backing from the various stakeholders with New Zealand Rugby Union CEO Steve Tew saying: "We wanted Super Rugby to remain a competitive, entertaining and commercially viable competition, one players enjoy being part of and we think this structure ticks all those boxes.

"This is the best option to evolve what is already a fantastic competition and one that continues to deliver for fans, teams, players and sponsors.

"From a player point of view it was important that we managed the travel of the teams. We needed a platform that ensured our best players could continue to perform at their peak. Equally keeping South Africa in the regular competition was an important part of what makes Super Rugby."

His Australian counterpart Bill Pulver said: "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."

Pulver also added he hoped the new structure would bring larger broadcast deals. "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."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

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