The SANZAR (South Africa, New Zealand and Australia Rugby) Board on Friday proposed expanding the Super 14 finals to a Top Six play-off series next year.
Viewed as stage one in an overall plan to increase Super Rugby’s footprint across member countries South Africa, New Zealand and Australia, the recommendation came out of a three-day SANZAR workshop in Perth that concluded with a Board meeting on Friday.
The proposal will now be forwarded to the individual national unions and major stakeholders in the SANZAR countries for their consideration and support.
SANZAR Board members also absorbed a number of ideas around alternative competition structures when Super Rugby is revamped – potentially from as early as 2010 – to include further teams.
In recent weeks the SANZAR members have held talks with countries like Argentina, Japan, as well as the Pacific nations of Fiji, Samoa and Tonga with regards to their future participation in the Super 14 and Tri-Nations.
It was acknowledged that significant changes to the existing Super Rugby format would have an impact on the traditional Tri-Nations window utilised by SANZAR countries and may impact on other areas of the international schedule – such as the June Tests.
Alternatives to the current Test schedule and the timing of international matches remain, like Super Rugby expansion, a work in progress.
The expansion plans, driven by the desire of the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) to compete with other major codes like Rugby League and Australian Football League, will not find favour with all role players.
Unlike South Africa and New Zealand the Aussies don’t have proper domestic competitions outside of their traditional club scene. Their state teams – the Waratahs, Reds, Brumbies and Western Force – only play in the Super 14 and then some pre-season friendlies.
Apart from impacting on the existing international season, the expansion plans will also affect long-standing and revered competitions like the Currie Cup and Air New Zealand Cup.
The Super 14 – which started of as the Super 10 in 1993 and became the Super 12 when the game went professional in 1996 – could now easily become a six-month marathon if the ARU-driven plans are to be pushed through by 2010.Tweet