20 May 2009

Super 14 to get 1 more team and divide into conferences

3:06 pm on 20 May 2009

The Super 14 rugby competition will be expanded to 15 teams from 2011 and feature more local derbies under a compromise plan unveiled by the SANZAR partners.

Under the agreed proposal, which still has to be approved by broadcasters next month, the 15 teams will be split into three conferences, one in each country.

Each of those sides will play the teams in their own conference twice a season, home and away, to increase the number of local derby matches.

They will also play eight of the other 10 teams from the other two conferences once, either home or away.

The three conference winners will qualify for the finals along with three wildcards, comprising other teams with the highest points for the whole season from any of the conferences.

The site of the 15th team will be decided by tender with both Australia and South Africa keen on another team.

The season will be expanded from 14 to 24 weeks, starting in late February and ending in August, except in World Cup years when everything will move forward.

It will also include a three-week break in June to allow for internationals against visiting teams.

The Tri-Nations international series, which normally starts in July, will now commence at the end of the Super 15, in early August, and will follow a permanent pattern.

South Africa will stage the first leg of the series while New Zealand and Australia will meet in the last two matches so the Springbok players are available for the domestic Currie Cup -- one of the major talking points in the negotiations.

NZRU chief executive Steve Tew says they said at every juncture that their preference was to maintain the three-country alliance and to build on it.