SANZAAR has ruled out any changes to this year’s Super Rugby finals format despite the likelihood that dominant New Zealand teams will be forced to travel for quarter-finals against opposition sides with worse records.
Under the competition format agreed to at the beginning of the year, the four conference winners will automatically host quarter-final matches against the next four best-ranked teams in the first week of the playoffs.
That has led to criticism in New Zealand, where many feel the system is unfair as it will hand home-ground advantage to teams that don’t deserve it.
For example, the Brumbies will likely be Australia’s sole team in the finals but could host the Crusaders, Highlanders or Hurricanes in a quarter-final – teams which have tallied significantly more competition points.
However, chief executive Andy Marinos says despite the “conjecture”, SANZAAR stands by the format.
“A tournament’s qualification criteria cannot be determined on one year’s results in isolation,” Marinos said on Thursday in a statement.
“Super Rugby is one of the world’s best rugby tournaments and this year’s final series is set to be exceptional, as the best teams have risen to the top through the regular season.
“This is reflected in the fact that, going into the final round this weekend, seven of the nine matches will have a direct bearing on the make-up of the quarter-finals.”
SANZAAR is in the midst of a strategic review that will determine the competition’s future beyond 2020, but there is a chance the finals’ structure could be slightly rejigged in time for next year.
There have been a number of teething issues experienced with the addition of expansion sides, the Jaguares, Sunwolves and Southern Kings, while there are concerns the convoluted nature of Super Rugby is turning off neutral sports fans.