ANY expansion of Super Rugby in 2016 will not mean more matches for players. That is the assertion of South Africa, New Zealand and Australia Rugby (Sanzar) CE Greg Peters.
Sanzar is looking at ways to expand the Super Rugby competition when the current television deal ends after 2015. But considering that nearly every available weekend is already taken, there will not be an increase in the number of fixtures for each team.
"There just aren’t enough weeks in the year to burden the players with more matches," Peters said.
"All three countries agree there will be no additional matches and, in fact, the appetite is there to look at fewer weeks of rugby in the future. Crossover matches and playoffs is an area that can be played with.
"But we all agree that the home and away derbies are a big part of the success of the current model," he said.
Sanzar has established a working group, consisting of two members from each country, to study the viability of expanding the tournament into new territories.
The South African Rugby Union is not opposed to the idea of expansion in principle but CE Jurie Roux said there was a process that needed to be followed. "A subcommittee has been formed to look at Super Rugby expansion and the opportunities may be out there, as Greg has described," Roux said. "But it’s a little premature to begin to speculate around the details — let’s allow the subcommittee to work out what is feasible."
Any expansion will be entertained only if it benefits each of the three parties and fulfils financial criteria, which is why Asia and the Americas are being targeted as possible growth points for Super Rugby.
"What we’re looking for are commercially valuable and financially viable markets; they have to be fairly immediate and they have to possess the ability to put out competitive teams," Peters said.
"Asia and the Americas already have some rugby traction through the 2019 World Cup in Japan and the 2016 Olympics in Rio. We would be derelict in our duty if we didn’t consider including them in some way, shape or form in the future. Argentina are also in the mix and they are going to want to be included in future expansion and we will consider that as well.
"It’s possible to add to new conferences in a radical model and then have more limited cross-over playoffs, but none of this has been decided yet," Peters said.
"We’ll take a good chunk of this year to decide what the future will look like.
"We should also note that the first two seasons of Super Rugby in this format have been successful, so we’re not trying to alter it because it’s been a failure. All we’re doing is examining all possible options to grow the game and our product in the future."