NEW Zealand rugby boss Steve Tew says his country fought a lone battle trying to change the format of the 18-team Super Rugby for the 2017 tournament.
Representatives of SA‚ New Zealand‚ Australia and Argentina Rugby (Sanzaar) met in Sydney last week to discuss the way forward for the cumbersome tournament.
Super Rugby has four conferences‚ and this ring-fences teams that might perform worse than sides in a more difficult conference.
That was one of Tew’s concerns. He said the Highlanders and the Chiefs‚ who both had more log points than the Stormers and the Brumbies‚ were forced to play away-quarterfinals.
New Zealand wanted a format that simply ranks the top eight by their log points gained and not by how they finished in the conference. But representatives from Australia and SA shot down the idea.
"Yes‚ disappointed and yes‚ we couldn’t get agreement from Australia and SA‚" Tew told reporters.
"We’ve tried and haven’t completely given up, but it’s unlikely we’ll get any substantial change in the finals format next year. If there are any changes for 2018 then that gives us another chance to have that debate.
"I’m stubborn and we’ll keep plugging away because we think it makes much more sense to have a straight top eight. It makes it a lot easier for the fans. They can almost disregard the complications of the conferences and just look at the log and say, ‘Is my team in the top eight?’
"We think it would have produced a fairer finals result this year, but our partners think it was an aberration and we won’t have four teams in the finals again, which is fine. They don’t want a change, and you’ve got to have agreement in Sanzaar — that’s the beauty of a joint venture."
Tew also suggested that the tournament size could shrink back to 15 or 16 teams as soon as 2018‚ but the reduction in numbers would have to come from SA and Australia.
"If Australia and SA can come to us with a sensible case, and we can ensure none of us is any worse off as a consequence, and it means the competition is better … then we’d listen to it‚" Tew said.
"But the ball really is with those two countries."