Free State Cheetahs boss Harold Verster may have spilled the outcome of the Sanzaar meeting on the future shape of Super Rugby, telling South African media two teams are expected to be cut.
Verster told Netwerk24 “the Cheetahs are safe” and that the competition would be reduced from 18 to 16 teams. A decision reportedly made at a Sanzaar meeting held last week.
It was widely thought the two preferred models for a restructure were keeping the current 18-team format by changing the confusing conference system, or reducing the competition to 15 teams.
It was reported New Zealand Rugby went to the meeting with a strong position to cut one Australian and two South African teams.
“All I can say is that we are safe. I keep my ear to the ground,” Verster reportedly said on Tuesday.
“There is much discussion about the current series and the format and two teams of South Africa will fall out and a team of Australia.
“There was even speculation that we would return to a Super 12, but my information is that we are going to be reduced from the current 18 to 16 teams, which means the Cheetahs are safe,” Verster said.
Super future looks bleak for Kings and one Aussie team
AUSSIES IN THE FIRING LINE
The NSW Waratahs and Queensland Reds were in no danger of being kicked out of the competition, but the ACT Brumbies, Melbourne Rebels and Western Force were all nervously waiting to find out if they will survive the cut.
Either a 15-team model or a 18-team model was seen as the two most workable solutions but if these reports are true that a 16-team proposal will get the green light, the make-up of the competition could be equally as confusing.
While 16 teams would appear to divide equally into four conferences, this is not possible because there are five New Zealand teams who are in no danger of being cut.
A team like the Sunwolves could replace an Australian team which might make a conference of five sides, but even then there will still be problems with the conferences in Africa.
The ARU has remained tight-lipped on the future of Australian teams, but the speculation about the Force, Brumbies or Rebels being axed has been a major distraction from the start of the season.
The ARU took financial control of the struggling Force last year while the Brumbies endured some off-field dramas last year.
The Rebels have a private backer and any plans to cut them from the competition would likely incur significant costs.
The ARU asked Australian teams to delay re-signing non-Wallabies players until after a decision was made on the future of Super Rugby.
However, that only applied until last week and the ARU is set to discuss its continuation or a change in strategy with Super Rugby teams on Tuesday.
– Sydney Morning Herald