NZ unhappy with Super Rugby finals format

New Zealand will continue to oppose the wishes of Australia and South Africa and lobby to revamp the Super Rugby playoffs.

However, New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew agrees the under-fire competition must expand further to remain commercially viable.

The release of the draw this week attracted widespread criticism that the 18-team Super Rugby structure has become bloated and unwieldy.

A complex conference-based format has been retained, along with a finals system in which home advantage can be awarded to teams who earn less overall points than their opponents.

That was the case for two New Zealand teams this year, prompting a push for change from Kiwi bosses, including Tew, at a meeting in Sydney last week.

Their desire is for the playoffs to be based purely on the overall standings, with home advantage commensurate with final placings.

“It is disappointing that we couldn’t get agreement from South Africa and Australia,” he said.

“We haven’t completely given up. We’ll keep plugging away because we think it makes a lot more sense for there to be a straight top eight, it makes it a lot easier for the fans who can disregard the conferences.”

Tew says his Australian and South African counterparts believed it was an aberration that four Kiwi teams qualified for the playoffs this year and that such a scenario is unlikely to repeat.

“You’ve got to have agreement at SANZAAR. That’s the beauty of a joint venture,” Tew said.

There was, however, a consensus that the competition needs to further expand its boundaries.

Having added teams from Argentina and Japan this year, there is a strong suggestion North America will be in SANZAAR’s sights when the current contract expires in 2020.

Tew says offshore offers to top New Zealand players is out-stripping previous sums.

South Africa is suffering particularly from a player drain while Australia and New Zealand are also coming under relentless pressure to fend off the lure of big-money European offers.

“We know if we sit still, we’ll get taken over by what’s going on in Europe and in particular in France,” Tew said.

“We’ve got to keep growing our commercial base and inevitably that’s going to have to be outside the existing markets.

“It’s not for expansion’s sake. It’s because it continues to grow value for the now four members (including Argentina) of SANZAAR.”

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