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Get used to it folks, the Super Rugby format is here to stay

Israel Folau. (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)
18th September, 2016
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A barrage of criticism from rugby fans won’t stop SANZAAR from persevering with this year’s controversial Super Rugby format.

Plenty of rugby fans were less than happy with the new and often confusing system, which saw new teams the Jaguares and Sunwolves classed in the South African Group and a number of African teams avoid having to do battle with the strong New Zealand teams.

There were rumours that a review from SANZAAR could see a premature shift in Super Rugby’s format, especially considering that South African broadcaster SuperSport is reportedly unhappy with the format.

However, speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald, SANZAAR boss Andy Marinos has poured cold water on the idea that the format could be scrapped after just the single season in operation, although he did admit the competition would benefit from being a closer-fought tournament.

“The format is going to stay in conferences for the foreseeable future given our geographical challenges we’ve got, so it’s more how do we get the competitiveness in the teams,” Marinos said.

There were also fears that the review could see a decrease in the number of teams playing Super Rugby, with the Melbourne Rebels and Western Force both mooted as possible casualties. Marinos allayed those fears – for now.

“There has been that conversation [of reducing teams, however] it’s really important we have a strong base from which you can have an expansionary model, if that’s what we’re looking at,” he said.

“We’ve looked at all options. We’ve gone from a Super 12 to a Super 14, then 15, 16 [teams in the competition]. 20, 24 [team options]; we’ve looked at all of those as part of our work and put that in front of the stakeholder. If you want to be responsible about it, you’ve got to have a proper look at the landscape and totality.”

That certainly seems to indicate we won’t be seeing any teams bite the dust next year, but the future beyond then remains uncertain. Should any sides be cast by the wayside, it appears unlikely that the Sunwolves or Jaguares would be the unlucky ones.

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While Marinos admitted the lack of depth in the new sides wasn’t ideal, he was adamant having a rough initiation into the competition was only to be expected.

“I think everyone was happy that the Sunwolves were as competitive as they were and then with the Argies, they came out of the blocks really quick,” Marinos said.

“Every team that has come into the comp has had a difficult first year.”

Should any teams be cut from Super Rugby, it could cause a major headache for the ARU, who recently signed a five-year $285 million broadcast deal. The agreement, which was designed with the 18-team comp in mind, still has a further four years to run.