Plan to beef up Super Rugby to 18 teams

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THE Southern hemisphere is looking to increase the Super Rugby championship to 18 teams, with Argentina and Japan invited to join, but still there is no talk of welcoming the South Sea Islanders on board.

Super Rugby organisers are considering splitting the current three-conference system into two from 2016 with two teams from Argentina, and possibly one or more from Japan at a later date. A ‘Super 18’ is among the proposals to be debated later this year, with the conferences split into one covering Australia and New Zealand and the other bringing South Africa and Argentina together, with play-offs between the winners in each conference.

However, a major criticism of the southern hemisphere’s ‘big three’ has been their failure to embrace Fiji, Tonga and Samoa, nations who continue to lose most of their leading players – many who go on to become naturalised in and represent other countries – because of the lack of regular high-level competition closer to home.

Shamefully, New Zealand still have not played a Test in any of the three nations, despite capping many players from Fiji, Samoa and Tonga.

The Australian Rugby Union has insisted that they will keep five teams and agree that South Africa should be permitted to enter six teams.

Sanzar are also pushing for the traditional June Test window, when northern hemisphere nations head south, to be moved to July, to allow Super Rugby to be played in one complete block instead of being interrupted for Test matches before the play-offs. That could alter the northern hemisphere season by shifting these Test matches to pre-season warm-ups instead of end-of-season tours.