Rugby Australia proposes Champions League-style ‘Super 8’


Ntombekhaya Zibi

Rugby Australia on Monday proposed a Super 8 series with teams from New Zealand, Japan, South Africa, and Argentina to be played at the conclusion of either a domestic or trans-Tasman tournament.

The plan was revealed as part of its drive to secure a profitable new broadcast deal, since the current one is running out at the end of the year.

Its vision includes options for either a domestic Super Rugby competition, as is being played currently due to the coronavirus pandemic, or a trans-Tasman one from 2021.

New Zealand last month suggested a new event with its five existing teams, two to four from Australia and one from the Pacific in a shake-up of the struggling flagship southern hemisphere Super Rugby tournament.

But there was little consultation and the plan angered its Sanzaar partners, with Australia insisting all of its teams – Brumbies, Reds, Waratahs, Rebels and Western Force – to play.

Rugby Australia’s pitch included a four-week Super 8 tournament featuring the top two teams from Australian, New Zealand and South African Super Rugby, and the leading one from Japan’s Top League and South America’s domestic tournament.

Interim Rugby Australia chief Rob Clarke said, “We will do whatever is in the best interests of Australian rugby and we’ve been working hard on a variety of competition models, not just for Super Rugby but for every level of the game,” 

He added that discussions had taken place with the other countries, but gave no sign about how the plan was received. “We’re in no means cutting off our Sanzaar partners and we’ll be looking to do things jointly with them beyond the Rugby Championship wherever possible,” he said.

“That said, we do need to have a competition that has integrity to it and has an ability to grow our game here in Australia and grow our fan base and some of the options we’re looking at we believe will do just that.”

Super Rugby was launched in 1996, emerging from the amateur South Pacific Championship as a 10-team professional competition featuring clubs from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

This year, its 25th anniversary season has not been one to celebrate, as the Coronavirus pandemic not only paused cross-border competition but brutally exposed its flawed format.

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