Plans were recently unveiled by SANZAR bosses for an expansion to Super Rugby, from the current 15 team format to a competition comprising 18 teams. The new format is due to come into effect in 2016.
It is not just the number of teams that is set to change. The conference structure will be completely revamped, with four conferences split into two zones. There will be two five team conferences in the Australasian zone, to include all the Australian and New Zealand franchises, who will play two fewer derby matches against teams from the same nation, but an extra game apiece against their Anzac neighbours.
In South Africa the changes are even more radical. There will be the introduction of a sixth franchise, the Eastern Province Kings, and the six will be split into two conferences. Each conference will contain another side, one likely from Argentina and one from elsewhere, possibly the Asian market.
Each African franchise will only play teams from one Anzac conference, thereby reducing the amount of travel each side has to do.
With the help of our friends over at SuperBru, we ran a little survey to see what Super Rugby fans thought of the expansion – the results are below.
Q. Which do you prefer, the current 15-team Super Rugby format, or the proposed new 18-team format coming in 2016?
– I prefer the current 15-team format
– I prefer the proposed 18-team format
|South Africa||Australia||New Zealand|
It is immediately obvious that, at the moment, fans are opposed to the change. And while that will likely soften with time, especially as more details emerge, it has to be questioned whether it is worth changing the format in a negative way, according to the fans, for essentially political reasons.
The addition of another South African franchise has long been a bone of contention in Super Rugby, and the new plans are obviously designed to address that. Right now, though, it has to be asked if South Africa deserve another team in the competition – they currently sit bottom of every attacking stat (points scored, tries scored, games won) despite having played more matches than any other conference. Four of their five teams sit in the bottom half of the table.
The Australians seem most in favour of the change, although this could be because they are the only nation not to have its own separate domestic competition on the side. Their ‘National Rugby Championship’ will begin next season, however, so it would be interesting to see if that opinion has changed in a couple of years’ time.
Of course there are plenty of positives about the change, too – the opening of rugby’s borders to include the Argentinians and possibly the Japanese/South Sea Isladers, and the reduction of travel for all sides, to name but a couple.
Nevertheless, you do get the sense that the competition is being watered down a bit.
What do you make of the proposed changes? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images