Details have been released of the new shape of provincial rugby from 2011.
There will be a seven-team premiership competition featuring the country's top teams, and a seven-team championship of the next best.
The New Zealand Rugby Union says it has now settled terms for a new employment contract with players, allowing it to roll out details of the new competition.
The existing 14-team top division was to have been culled to 10 teams next year, but last week the union delayed that move, citing the threat of legal action and ongoing player talks.
Under the new competition, provinces will play all the teams in their division plus four teams from the other division.
Whoever wins the second-tier championship will get automatic promotion to the premiership - replacing the bottom-placed team in that division.
If the system was in place now, 2009 results would mean major rugby unions such as Taranaki, Otago and North Harbour would be in the lower tier of teams.