SANZAAR defend “unfair” Super Rugby format

Andy Marinos will be the new SANZAR CEO

Super Rugby’s organising body SANZAAR have defended the qualification and finals process for the current Super Rugby format.

The format came in for much criticism before it was signed off but it was still put forward and then sold to broadcasters for the next five years.

SANZAAR are aware of the flaws in their format and have appointed Accenture to review their structures but in the meantime the fans will have to accept the format as it is.

Under the current format if the finals were held before the final round a team with 50 points would have to travel to play an away quarter final against a team with 39 points.

It is certain that the Stormers and either the Brumbies or Waratahs will host a quarterfinal against a team that has earned less points through the season.

The format has also come under fire as teams in the Africa 1 Conference such as the Stormers have gone through the season without having to play the strongest conference which is the New Zealand Conference.

SANZAAR CEO Andy Marinos has released a statement saying that, “The Super Rugby competition conference format was agreed by the SANZAAR Executive Board that oversees Super Rugby.”

“We presently have an 18-team competition that sees eight teams qualifying for the finals through this conference system.”

“The finals qualification process sees the four conference winners automatically progress to the quarter-finals as hosts. The winners of the Australian, New Zealand, South Africa 1 and South Africa 2 conferences will therefore host finals. This is consistent with similar conference competition structures in the world of sport.

“The remaining four places are determined by a wild card system that will see four teams qualify for the quarter-finals to play the conference winners. This wildcard system delivers the Australia/New Zealand Group three teams and one team from the South Africa Group.”

“This year through this system four New Zealand teams will qualify for the finals (conference winner and three wild cards) out of the five teams competing in Super Rugby. This is due reward for these teams based on their regular season results.”

“Unfortunately there has been conjecture that the hosting criteria for the quarter-finals is unfair, largely based on the exceptional form of the New Zealand teams. ”

“However, SANZAAR stands by the existing qualification process. A tournament’s qualification criteria cannot be determined on one years’ results in isolation.”

“Super Rugby is one of the world’s best rugby tournaments and this year’s final series is set to be exceptional, as the best teams have risen to the top through the regular season. This is reflected in the fact that going into the final round this weekend seven of the nine matches will have a direct bearing on the make-up of the quarter-finals.”

The SANZAAR CEO’s comments come after New Zealand Rugby Boss CEO Steve Tew – who also signed off on the format – branded it “just not fair” that the New Zealand teams will not host more finals even though they have earned more points than the teams that will be hosting the matches.

Speaking to RadioSport Tew said the system was not ideal but that it had been driven by the need to have finals participation in the competition’s main television markets – South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

“At the end of the day, it’s not as complicated as it sounds but frankly it’s just not fair, that’s the problem we’ve got,” he told Radio Sport on Sunday.

“But there needed to be a final in every TV market or else the value we would have got for our content was seriously reduced.”

The body have held meetings this week to discuss the way forward although the format has been sold to broadcasters for five years so the amount of change that SANZAAR can implement is limited by the contracts that have been signed.

A tweak to the qualification rules based more on merit appears to be possible but the imbalance of teams getting easier draws than others through the season appears to be set in stone until 2019.

However given the drop in viewing numbers and general apathy from fans broadcasters may be willing to look at changes that might increase interest.

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