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SANZAR approves expansion to 18 teams in 2016

New Zealand Rugby Chief Executive Steve Tew said expansion was necessary

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Article Published: Friday 2 May 2014|

Super Rugby will expand from it's 15 team three conference to a four conference 18 team format with three extra franchises from 2016.

SANZAR have approved plans to expand the tournament using a similar format to NFL format and the format opens up the possibility for further expansion in the future.

New Zealand Rugby Chief Executive Steve Tew says that the 18 team format offers the best chance to ensure Super Rugby continues to be the premier international provincial rugby competition in the world.

South Africa will get an extra team and a team from Argentina will be added to the tournament as well as a third team that will be put out to tender.

The six South African teams and the two new teams will be put into two new conferences of four teams each in a South African group

The ten New Zealand (five) and Australian (five) teams will remain in their current conferences but they will play in an Australasian group.

Australian Super Rugby teams teams will play all New Zealand sides each season, compared to playing four in the current format.

A big difference will be that the Australian teams will only play one of the South African conferences while the New Zealand teams will play the other conference alternating year after year.

The new structure was discussed and approved at an Australian Rugby Union strategy meeting earlier today, involving all five Australian Super Rugby CEOs and Australian Rugby Union CEO Bill Pulver.

The next step in the process will be to negotiate commercial arrangements, draw and other details of the future competition.

NZRU Boss Tew said that given the demands from South Africa and Argentina expansion was necessary.

Tew said that they will go to market with the new team which could from America, Asia or even Southern Europe.

"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," said Tew.

"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.

"With a later start and one less match for each team in the competition, we believe we have got the balance right. We also believe we have a competition that will continue to feed a winning All Blacks team.

"From a fans' perspective, there will still be plenty of derbies to enjoy as well as top rugby from the best players in the world. Now we have a great opportunity to ensure Super Rugby continues to flourish in what is an increasingly competitive market for sports fans' attention."

New Super Rugby 2016 competition highlights:

The 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 Finals Series ... eight contenders, three weeks
- Playoff format features an eight-team knock-out Finals Series playing in a quarters, semis and final format
- Five teams qualify from the Australasia Group, three teams from the South Africa Group
- All four conference winners automatically advance to Finals Series
- The next three highest ranked teams in the Australasia Group and the next highest team in the South Africa Group, will make up the wildcard contenders, and also advance to the Finals Series

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