Super Rugby

SANZAAR chief defends Super Rugby format

SANZAAR chief executive Andy Marinos has launched a staunch defence of the Super Rugby format ahead of the final round of fixtures before the play-offs.

There has been no shortage of criticism for a new system that came into effect this year, with 18 franchises now taking part in the competition.

Only one New Zealand side will host a quarter-final next weekend despite four having amassed more points than South African sides Stormers and Brumbies.

Questions have also been asked over the fixtures, with Stormers not having to come up against teams in the New Zealand Conference, but Marinos hit back at critics on Thursday.

He said in a statement: "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 wildcard 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 year's 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."