ARU boss Bill Pulver announces expanded Super Rugby model

ARU boss Bill Pulver, flanked by James Horwill and Israel Folau. Picture: LOUISE KENNERLEY
ARU boss Bill Pulver, flanked by James Horwill and Israel Folau. Picture: LOUISE KENNERLEY


Australian Rugby Union boss Bill Pulver revealed the announcement of an expanded model to take to broadcasters is only a fortnight away.

On the eve of a meeting with provincial chief executives, Pulver backed a Super 18 model for 2016, under which the Australian and New Zealand conferences would remain the same.

Australia's five teams would play two less "local derby" matches in a 15-game regular season but would strengthen their Anzac ties by increasing their four matches against Kiwi rivals to five.

Significant changes will be made in South Africa, with its six teams, including the recalled Southern Kings, put in two pools with a new Argentine team and a final side, which the ARU hopes will be based in Asia.

Those two four-team conferences - including an overseas expansion team in each - will only face one of two Australasian conferences each year, which reduces fears of increased travel.

"It's likely to be a four-conference model and this will be finalised in the next couple of weeks to be announced," Pulver said.

While the ARU chief executive is supporting SANZAR's in-principle expansion plans, they are unlikely to be applauded by his provincial counterparts.

Pulver is under pressure from the franchises and the players' association to pull Australia out of South Africa-driven plans to increase Super Rugby from 15 teams to 17 or 18.

Political pressure for more black participation saw the SARU demand the Port Elizabeth-based Kings, who were relegated last season, be reinstated for good.

With South Africa providing almost half of broadcast revenue, governing body SANZAR listened to its powerful voice, while New Zealand was opposed to breaking the partnership.

Plans for fewer derbies in Australia - from eight to six and one less home game every second year - upset state officials who believe it will see them go bust.

Pulver said he understood the concerns but backed the proposed changes as the best model to improve the competition and boost broadcasting revenue.

"I'm more than happy to go along with it," he said. "I think it will be a terrific structure."

Queensland Rugby Union chief executive Jim Carmichael hoped Australian officials remained open-minded about expansion plans to ensure the best result for the cash-strapped code.

"We don't have a preferred model, as yet. We have a preferred position, and that is not to prejudice Australian interests in the competition moving forward."

While the Reds, NSW Waratahs and Brumbies are unhappy about the loss of derby matches, Pulver said that less was more for the Melbourne Rebels and Western Force. "Those two franchises aren't too excited in home derbies." AAP


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