Options for new Investec Super Rugby format to avoid longer season

Chiefs Rugby

James Mortimer     28 Aug 2013     Chiefs Rugby

Currently Super Rugby is played over a record duration, over 21 weeks with the finalists potentially playing 19 matches.

With this new format in place since 2011, New Zealand Rugby has needed to compromise its own competitions and schedules in an increasingly bumper rugby calendar year.

This year the governing body has taken steps to ensure that workloads and playing schedules are managed carefully, with the ITM Cup now having more ‘non-playing days’, while the All Blacks will not play out a full end of year Test schedule.

New Zealand Rugby Chief Executive Steve Tew said that monitoring the workload of players was crucial, and if anything, further cuts to playing time was on the agenda.

“We believe we play enough rugby,” Tew said.

“We do think it'll be good to get a little bit less. So there's no more weeks available in our view.”

Options on the table include an expanded competition involving teams from new territories, but New Zealand Rugby is wary of the extra demands on players from more travel.

“We would not entertain a competition structure that increases the workload of the players either by week or by travel,” Tew said.

New Zealand Rugby said that the four current countries, represented by the three member SANZAR nations and Argentina, were working on a new format that could include South America possibly for the first time.

The sticking point as always is the development of a largely amateur playing and domestic tournament structure in Argentina, while the bulk of their elite players are signed with European clubs.

“We’re committed to them (Argentina) being involved in Super Rugby at some point in time,” Tew said.

“One of the options is for some expansion at this next juncture for them.

“If we are going to expand then there’s probably room for expansion in more territories than just Argentina.”

Tew underlined the importance of South African teams playing a key role in any new format. He said the share of broadcast revenue that came out of South Africa was “too significant” to seriously work on Super Rugby without the Republic.

The Stormers again topped the average attendance for Super Rugby in 2013, with the Kings and Bulls round out the top four.

Tew said New Zealand Rugby in particular regarded playing against South African sides on their turf as an important part of player development.