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Super Rugby in 2016 likely to have just 16 teams

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Japan’s hopes of playing in the 2016 Super Rugby tournament still appear to
be doomed but their exit could also force the Southern Kings out of the expanded
tournament.

The Japanese Rugby Union formed the Japan Super Rugby Association (JSRA) to
run the new Super Rugby team but the JSRA has struggled to sign players for
the new team.

Their expectation was that the Japanese Top League teams would release players
to the Super Rugby team but they don’t want to do that and instead they want
the Top League to be considered at a higher level than Super Rugby.

SANZAR are believed to be so concerned about the situation in Japan that they
have started discussing alternate tournament models for the 2016 season and
possibly beyond.

Tournament organizers SANZAR gave Japan a deadline on August 31 last month
to show a list of 20 contracted players but reports suggest that the standard
of players is not at a level that will make the new Asian team competitive.

Reports in Australia say that SANZAR are now considering taking the Super Rugby
licence away from Japan indefinitely.

The writing appeared to be on the wall early last month when Japan coach Eddie
Jones announced that he would not be re-signing with the national side and he
would not be available as the new Japanese team’s Director of Rugby.

While the Japan team’s inclusion seems unlikely it is understood that the sixth
South African side the Southern Kings are also struggling to sign a full squad
and in recent months there have been financial problems and rumours of player
strikes due to wages not being paid.

South African Rugby has seen an exodus of players this year and this coupled
with large numbers of retiring players and SARU are said to be concerned that
they don’t have enough quality depth to field a sixth team.

The Kings played Super Rugby in 2013 after heavy political pressure from the
South African government but many of the players were loaned from other sides
including the Lions who they replaced before being relegated.

If Japan are removed from Super Rugby it would leave 18 teams which is a difficult
number of teams to include in the tournament so SARU may have to try and convince
the South African government to relax the pressure and give the Kings more time
to prepare.

In contrast the new Argentina team are racing ahead with signing players and
even former SANZAR CEO Greg Peters has joined the management of the team so
the tournament could go ahead with a 16 team format.

Meanwhile World Rugby boss Brett Gosper has revealed that South Africa and
Italy could be considered as hosts for the 2019 World Cup if Japan are unable
to prove to them that they are still capable of hosting the tournament by the
end of this month.

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