According to a report from the Sydney Morning Herald, the nations involved in Super Rugby are considering the contraction of the competition back to 14 teams and removing the conference system.
The Sydney Morning Herald report that the proposed 14-team revamp is one of several models discussed by the SANZAAR unions following recent World Rugby meetings in Dublin last month.
The Japan-based Sunwolves – who have won just five matches across their first three seasons – are believed to be at risk should the competition return to 14 teams.
The Sunwolves could be saved should another South African side follow in the footsteps of the Cheetahs and Southern Kings in joining the northern hemisphere’s Pro14 competition.
The Argentina-based Jaguares appear in good stead within the competition and unlikely candidates for culling, with an impressive 2018 campaign and maiden playoff berth capped by strong performances from Argentina during the Rugby Championship and November test window, notching wins against South Africa, Australia, France and Italy since then.
Constraining the decision-making is the need to keep the competition to a 22-week duration. A full round-robin format, in which every team plays every other team on a home-and-away basis, would be impossible to fit into that window, regardless of whether there were 14 or 15 teams involved.
Along with the removal of one team, a return to a variation of a round robin format seems to be the consensus moving forward.
A return to the format has been supported by coaches, players and fans in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
SANZAAR CEO Andy Marinos discussed Super Rugby’s future in an interview with Fairfax last month.
“What we’ve got to realise is that Super Rugby was established originally in order to slip that one level below test matches and the yield that it’s given is being able to deliver three and now four countries that are seriously competitive on the international stage and have dominated the World Cup since its formation,” Marinos said.
“That value can’t be underestimated as a breeding ground for international rugby, which does drive a fair portion of revenue in the game.
“The essence of the product is very strong and we still get the best players in the world playing in that comp. Our big challenge is to get the right mix together to use it as a platform to drive forward.”
Super Rugby has taken several forms since its inception in 1996. Initially starting with Super 12 and eventually expanding to as many at 18 teams before contracting back to 15 in 2018.
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