NZ pushing hard for March Super Rugby start date

The New Zealand Rugby Union have promised to “fight hard” to get the starting date for an expanded Super Rugby tournament if plans to add teams in the Super 14 go ahead.

The subject was on the agenda for the NZRU’s monthly board meeting in Wellington after all three of the SANZAR partners met in Johannesburg last week to discuss the expansion of the tournament.

NZRU chief executive Steve Tew says that the situation remained “a work in progress” but felt some progress was being made.

South Africa do not want the tournament to start later than February because a later start will impact on the Currie Cup  for which they have already pre sold the TV rights.

They have suggested that the tournament start in January while New Zealand and Australia want a March start date. This indicates how far apart the partners are.

SANZAR are looking for ways to bring in more money from the broadcasters even though any expansion is almost certain to see a drop in the standard of rugby. Many fans are against the expansion as it will spread the talent even thinner.

Tew says that further SANZAR meetings are scheduled for April as they are working to finalise the next five years of Super Rugby ahead of their June 30 deadline when they have to re-submit to the broadcasters.

“The start date has been the subject of considerable debate,” Tew told Stuff.

“We have tried very hard to work on solutions not non-negotiables.

“We think the March start date for every year other than World Cup years is worth fighting very hard for.

“That’s one of the things that we have stuck to from the start and will continue to push very hard for.

“Ultimately though these things will come down to trade-offs. All factors will need to be on the table including how much money is available to each country as a consequence of whatever we agree or not agree on. Things will get traded off.

“But we feel strongly that a March start date would be a significant gain for the competition in this country.”

Tew added that when or indeed if the tournament is expanded there was “a strong preference” that the new format and team involve the current partners of South Africa, New Zealand and Australia.

New Zealand would however continue to investigate options that include Trans-Tasman and Asia-Pacific alternatives.

Rumour has it that since Australia and South Africa cannot agree on which country should get the 15th Super Rugby team there has been a suggestion of the tournament being expanded to a Super 16 and even a Super 18 which would see three pools of six giving Australia two new teams.


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