Former NZ Rugby Boss David Moffett says that New Zealand may have to lose a Super Rugby team if the tournament is to survive.
Moffett says that the Super Rugby competition would be “dead in five years” unless Sanzaar reduce the number of teams – which could mean that New Zealand loses a team.
There has been much speculation that one of the South African and one of the Australian teams could drop out of Super Rugby but Moffett is the first to suggest New Zealand could lose a team.
Moffett helped form Sanzar and Super Rugby said that reducing Super Rugby to 12 teams with two full rounds would be the best way forward for Super Rugby to evolve.
Moffett has been a long term critic of Sanzaar’s determination to continually expand and was responding to a report that a Sanzaar review suggests that Australia and South Africa could lose a team and the tournament be reduced to 16 teams.
The current 18 team Super Rugby format is unloved by the fans but finding a solution that will continue to fund the Southern Hemisphere game as well as satisfy the fans is difficult.
Consultancy firm Accenture have held talks with the 28 stakeholders, which includes the clubs, national unions and host broadcasters from each country in an effort to find the best way forward for Super Rugby.
The review is still a work in progress but has several proposals including further expansion and also another which sees South Africa losing two teams.
When asked to comment on a potential 16 team format Moffett says that losing two teams will not be enough.
“It doesn’t go far enough,” Moffett, who labelled the current format as “absolutely pathetic” Moffett told Stuff.
“I know that my views on the future of Super Rugby will not hit a very good chord in New Zealand. I understand that, but what I am talking about is the future of rugby in the southern hemisphere.”
If Sanzaar don’t reduce the number of teams, he says: “It will be dead in five years. They don’t have a choice, in my view. They have tried this expansion model and it is already not working.”
Moffett says that a better solution is for the competition to be stripped to 12 teams with New Zealand, Australia and South Africa each having four teams and every team playing each other twice.
“That’s a competition that would make sense. A 16 team competition won’t make sense, it’s still not fair. ”
“The problem is Sanzaar thinks it should be developing rugby outside of Europe, which is so patently wrong. It’s not their job – their job is to look after their own backyards.”
Moffett accepts that cutting a New Zealand team would be a massive call (all five New Zealand teams have won at least one title) but he says it might be necessary.
“It would be dynamite, but you have to evolve. Yes, it would be painful, but until you get a competition that people understand and is fair …”
Moffett says that cutting back to 12 teams would give the broadcasters who fund the game quality and quantity.
Currently many New Zealand fans have elected to watch local derby games instead of Super Rugby and they have little interest in fixtures that include teams from Australia, South Africa, Argentina and Japan due to the quality.
Moffett did however praise New Zealand Rugby for sticking with five Super Rugby teams since the tournament began in 1996 unlike Australia and South Africa.
That was to NZ Rugby’s “absolute credit”, he stated.
“You need to look no further than that for the dominance of New Zealand rugby. Because their total focus is on five teams, their focus on what is right for their rugby has got them head and shoulders above South Africa and Australia.
“You have to give credit to Tew (chief executive Steve Tew) and his board. They know what to do, so far they have kept it to five teams.
“You can either take the soft option or take the right option. And the soft one is to just continue to grow the number of teams. ”
“There are not enough quality players to people that number of teams.”