The Tasman and Northland Rugby unions have retained their places in the Air New Zealand Cup.
The New Zealand Rugby Union was planning to drop the teams to streamline the professional game.
But it announced on Friday that Northland and Tasman will get a second chance, avoiding relegation.
NZRU chairman Jock Hobbs says the board had to weigh up the qualities of a 12-team competition against the damage that would cause the Northland and Tasman rugby communities.
Mr Hobbs says the board accepted that damage would have been significant.
But he warned there would be tougher entry conditions for the top tier, with annual warrant of fitness checks on unions' finances - and any breach could see them excluded.
Mr Hobbs said all unions will have to live within their means from now on - instead of spending more than they earn, and expecting the Rugby Union to dig them out of the hole.