Rugby: New format best option for NZ sides

The new format of the Super rugby competition is the best option offered to New Zealand teams and does not differ greatly to the status quo, Highlanders general manger Roger Clark says.

The New Zealand Rugby Union on Thursday confirmed the structure of the proposed Super 18 competition, set to kick off in 2016.

The new format will have four conferences, and teams will play 15 games - one fewer than now - before entering a three-week, eight-team finals series.

Six South African sides, an Argentinian side and an unnamed team will complete the two South African conferences.

Clark said one of the positives of the new structure was it was future-proof.

''So if we want to change it again then we do not have to go to a whole new structure. We can simply add teams to the competition when we see fit,'' he said.

The new competition means one fewer home game - seven - every second year and Clark said that would have an economic impact on the franchise.

''Plus, potentially, we are not going to get a home game with the Crusaders every year and that is a big game for us. So that is going to be something of a challenge to us.

''The coaches and players have made it quite clear what they think of the derby games. They go hard against each other and knock themselves round. And it is not just here. They are doing the same in Australia and South Africa.

''But this looks a pretty good option. It is not a big change for us. We just need to get on with it.''

Clark said many successful leagues had conferences, such as the NBA and Major League Baseball, and the format had a clear pathway to finals.

He had no idea where the 18th team would come from but said New Zealand's playing resources were stretched at five teams.

Ballots would be used to decide what teams would be played and would change from year to year.

He said it was simply not possible to have a true round robin because of time constraints.

Next year's competition, under the present format, will start earlier and will not have a break for June internationals, as no team will be touring because of the World Cup.

Clark hoped the mid-year international window could be pushed back permanently to July so the competition would not have to have a break.

That was still being negotiated by administrators and the IRB.

Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph said from South Africa yesterday he had not studied the changes in great detail.

''But when it comes from up above and to me you have got to get on with it. I do not have any influence in that and what it is, it is. Who knows in 2016 whether I will even be here?''

New Super format
At a glance
NZ conference:
Blues, Chiefs, Highlanders, Crusaders, Hurricanes
Australian conference: Rebels, Brumbies, Waratahs, Reds, Force
South African group: Lions, Cheetahs, Kings, Argentinian team
South African group: Bulls, Stormers, Sharks, other team

Highlanders possible 2016 season: Play six games against New Zealand teams (three home and away); play every Australian team (three home, two away), play four games against members of South African groups (two home, two away).


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