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South Africa to be excluded from new Super 14 ?


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Super rugby could be bound for the scrap heap with a new 14-team trans-Tasman competition and an international Heineken Cup-style format being mooted by a powerful group of nine New Zealand provincial unions.

The Dominion Post reports that they have learned representatives from North Harbour, Wellington, Canterbury, Auckland, Waikato, Otago, Hawke’s Bay, Taranaki, and Southland have been meeting behind closed doors for the past six-to-eight weeks.

It is unclear whether the NZRU (and their SANZAR partners) have been kept abreast of the discussions, but it’s understood Australian Rugby Union boss John O’Neill was briefed at the weekend on the group’s plans.

The eight unions are scheduled to meet again this week or next to “finalise their thoughts”.

The source, who did not want to be named, said the unions have been working on a professional template that would see Super rugby and the Air New Zealand Cup replaced by a European-style structure running from March to October.

“The unions are absolutely unanimous that Super rugby has reached the end of its life. It’s served a purpose, but it needs to be completely revamped. Super rugby and the Air New Zealand Cup would be scrapped and it would be the end of the franchises.”

The “Heineken Cup” style tournament would run at the same time as the trans-Tasman competition, with matches played every four weeks being contested by 24 teams in four pools of six.

It would include the top sides ranked on the preceding season’s results and would take in teams from New Zealand, South Africa, Japan, the United States, the Pacific Islands and perhaps Hong Kong.

A playoff between the southern hemisphere’s champions and the northern hemisphere’s actual Heineken Cup winners could be played at the end of the year.

The source said former All Black and now Japan national coach John Kirwan had played a role in discussions.

The new (super)14 team tournament will be a trans-Tasman trophy and would include nine New Zealand provinces and five teams from Australia, played on a home-and-away basis and would thus exclude South Africa.

Each New Zealand team would include 35 players, centrally contracted by the New Zealand Rugby Union with an entry fee, possibly as high as $5 million.

It would be proposed that the competition coincide with South Africa’s Currie Cup, the Japanese league and a Pacific Islands tournament.


All Blacks would be “released” by their teams to compete in test matches during the June international window.

Club rugby would run from March to August with provinces not involved in the professional competition playing in an amateur Heartland-style tournament.

The source said New Zealand’s players had been consulted and were behind the concept.

Sample draws had been made and there were people now looking into the costs of the competition and potential sponsorship.

The group did not anticipate any protest from Saru, which recently signed a lucrative five-year deal with banking giants Absa for the Currie Cup. South Africa are the major contributors to Sanzar’s lucrative five-year broadcasting deal with News Ltd.

That deal ends in 2011, but there is a feeling the money generated from Japan and America would make a the new format an attractive one to would-be suitors.

The group’s preference would be to have the new competition set up next year, but a more realistic date would be 2010.

News of the radical shakeup comes as the NZRU prepares to unveil the new format and structure of the ANZC, expected to be either today or tomorrow. Tasman are expected to be culled, but it is unclear what other steps the union will take.

What is being planned: The Group of Nine’s template: One professional window from March to October:


14-team trans-Tasman trophy home and away (Nine from New Zealand, five from Australia):


Heineken Cup style tournament (to run alongside trans-Tasman trophy): Matches every four weeks with 24 teams in four pools of six made up of teams from New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Japan, Pacific Islands and America.


With thanks to The Dominion Post.

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