Super Rugby cools talk of axing team

Sports | 5 Dec 2018

Reports that Super Rugby will shrink from 15 to 14 teams as part of a new broadcast deal are speculative and no decisions have yet been made on the size of the competition from 2021, the head of governing body Sanzaar says.

Super Rugby, which grew out of the southern hemisphere provincial championship, contracted from 18 teams to 15 last season after struggling for audiences in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

A claim by the Sydney Morning Herald was that more shrinkage was on the cards with the single northern hemisphere team, Japan's Sunwolves, facing the ax to allow an unpopular conference system to be dumped.

But Sanzaar's chief executive, South African Andy Marinos, said that was conjecture at this time and any changes to the competition would be communicated "at the appropriate time."

Super Rugby started with 12 teams from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa after the game turned professional in 1996, and expansions over 10 years took the competition to 18 franchises.

The 18-team format, which included an expansion into Argentina and Japan, was dumped after the 2016 and 2017 seasons with Australia's Western Force as well as South Africa's Cheetahs and Kings losing their spots.

While Argentina's Jaguares have thrived in three seasons and qualified for the playoffs this year, the Sunwolves have finished bottom, second bottom and bottom in three campaigns.


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