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Super 14 expansions plans progress

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The Super 14 competition is to be radically overhauled, with the preferred outcome a new 18-team franchise-based “Super Rugby” competition starting in 2010 that could include teams in Tokyo, Los Angeles, Hong Kong and Shanghai.


Rising concern at the loss of top Springboks, Wallabies and All Blacks to European rugby, plus plummeting gates and television audiences for Super 14 rugby, has prompted the three Sanzar nations of New Zealand, Australia and South Africa to completely re-evaluate the basis on which their main competition is organised according to The Scotsman.


Over the next month the Sanzar nations will meet with representatives of Argentina, the Pacific Islands (Fiji, Samoa and Tonga), Japan, the USA and Canada, with a final decision being taken in September on the exact format of the new competition.


However, sources in New Zealand, where the Union has been holding a series of meetings with its provinces, have indicated that an outline decision has already been reached. The competition will consist of the existing five teams from New Zealand and South Africa, with Australia establishing a new team in Melbourne to take its tally to five teams.


In addition to those 15 teams, franchises will be offered to any city which satisfies the criteria. It is understood that there is already backing in Japan for one team, while the Sanzar nations are determined to tap into both the Asian and North American markets. Should there be more than three viable bids, they will all be considered on their merits. As many as 22 teams could be contained within the envisaged season, which would be between 22 and 28 weeks, including the eight-team play-offs.


All three Sanzar nations, whose Unions currently own their Super 14 sides, are planning to franchise their provincial sides to private businessmen where possible in order to increase the amount of money in the game and encourage aggressive marketing.


Crucially, the market in players would be completely deregulated within the tournament. While, for instance, New Zealand might insist on its franchises having 75% of its players being Kiwis, the other 25% could be players from South Africa, Australia, the Pacific Islands, Japan, Argentina, USA, or Canada. At the moment, only Wallaby-qualified players are allowed to play for Australian Super 14 sides, All Black-qualified players for the New Zealand sides and Springbok-qualified players for the South African sides. Dispensations are only usually granted when a player such as Freddie Michalak, Gregor Townsend or Christian Califano fulfils a need that can’t be met by indigenous players.


Such a system, it is believed, would bring significantly more money into the game in the southern hemisphere and give players the ability to move sides within the competition. It is also hoped that all Argentinian and Pacific Island players would play in the southern hemisphere, with a view to their national sides eventually competing in an expanded Tri-Nations. An Argentine or Pacific Islands franchise would not be considered, however.


The Sanzar nations have already begun forming strong links with both mainland Asia and the USA. The NZRFU has been particularly active in helping establish rugby in China, where it is now played by all 20 million members of the People’s Liberation Army. The Kiwis have been similarly active in America.

 

Super14.com

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