A New Zealand-based competition featuring up to eight professional teams, including the five existing Kiwi Super Rugby franchises, is being reported as the potential future of rugby in the land of the All Blacks.
The New Zealand Herald reports it has been told by sources within New Zealand Rugby that Super Rugby as we know it is destined for the history books as officials scramble to create a new competition to allow some form of rugby to be played this year.
Despite NZR’s newly-announced Aratipu review into Super Rugby, the report indicates that there is a concession among officials that the competition has run its due course following a plummet in fan interest and engagement stretching over a decade-and-a-half.
The Herald attributes the decision to withhold New Zealand’s top All Blacks from the opening two months of Super Rugby in 2007 as the catalyst for the downfall in viewership figures, with the competition seeing a drastic TV audience dip of 29 percent that year alone.
NZR sources told the Herald that the desire to keep All Blacks playing in New Zealand is at the forefront of discussions surrounding a competition reboot.
“We don’t want the Brazil [football] model,” an NZR official said.
“Where all your top players are in clubs offshore. We’re determined to keep as many of our All Blacks here as we can.”
The lure of New Zealand sides clashing against each other in local derbies week after week is an enticing prospect, but question marks remain over the future of the Mitre 10 Cup should such the new professional competition come to fruition.
The Herald states that the Mitre 10 Cup, New Zealand’s semi-professional provincial competition that sits a tier below Super Rugby, would still be played even after Super Rugby’s replacement tournament was over.
However, an NZR insider cited financial concerns over how the Mitre 10 Cup franchises could be funded alongside a fully professional competition featuring teams based exclusively in New Zealand.
“We can’t, and we won’t, turn provinces like Canterbury into fully amateur Heartland sides,” they told the Herald. “But we do need to work out just how many professional teams New Zealand can afford.”
No date has been set for an announcement of any form of rugby competition in New Zealand, although the preliminary findings from the Aratipu review will be presented to the NZR board by the end of June.
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