Super Rugby

Super Rugby changes could confuse fans, ARU admits

The chief of the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) concedes that fans could struggle to grasp the new regulations introduced in Super Rugby for 2016.

Sunwolves from Japan and Argentina's Jaguares will enter the competition for the first time, as well as the reintroduction of Southern Kings, taking the number of teams to 18.

The expansion incorporates a total of four conferences. The Australasia group is split into an Australia and New Zealand conference, each with five teams.

There will be two South Africa conferences, the first of which comprises Bulls, Cheetahs, Stormers and the Japanese team, while the second contains Kings, Lions, Sharks and the team from Argentina.

After 15 regular-season matches, there will be an eight-team knockout Super Rugby Finals Series.

The top four teams from each conference automatically qualify, along with the three next highest ranked Australasia teams and the next best placed South African group team.

"It's going to take our fans a little while to get their heads around it," ARU chief operating officer Rob Clarke told the Herald Sun.

"I think the easiest way to get your head around it is to think of the six-five-four rule.

"For Australian fans their sides are going to play six games against other Aussie teams, five against New Zealand teams and four against one of the conferences in Africa.

"That's pretty easy to explain. And hopefully as we get our teeth in to the season everyone will get their heads around it and will be able to understand the complex nature of it.

"With any new format there are always learnings and we'll be taking those learnings up throughout the season and of course at the end.

"But a lot of work went in to planning it and when you've got the complexity of five different countries being involved and all the time zone implications of that, to get a draw that is equal is a challenging mathematical formula.

"We think it's pretty well right, but time will tell."