10 Apr 2017

NZR boss backs changes to 'failing' Super Rugby

8:18 am on 10 April 2017

New Zealand Rugby boss Steve Tew supports cutting three teams from the Super Rugby competition saying it wasn't working and had to change.

06092016 Photo: Rebekah Parsons-King. Gordon Tietjens steps down as All Blacks Sevens coach.  Pictured: Steve Tew, NZ Rugby Chief Executive.

Steve Tew. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

The competition's governing body SANZAAR has announced that, as anticipated, it will cut three teams from the tournament from next year.

Two will go from South Africa and one from Australia - but the ruling body as left it up to the two unions to decide which teams to drop.

SANZAAR has also re-jigged the Super Rugby format. The conference system remains, though there are more local derbies. Eight teams will make the finals - the three conference winners and five wild cards - with the top placed wildcard getting a home playoff.

It comes after the competition expanded last year to include teams from Japan and Argentina, and the creation of a conference system many criticised.

SANZAAR chief executive Andy Marinos said Super Rugby was dying a slow death and they had to act.

"We've seen across all the markets there's been a steady decline in TV viewership and match attendance.

"Coupled with some extremely lopsided results that have been coming out of the games and the falling crowd figures and broadcast numbers, we believe it was the right time to implement a change."

NZR chief executive Steve Tew said the current format wasn't working and the new look competition should improve the quality of the tournament and appeal to New Zealand fans.

"The 18-team [competition] just wasn't doing the job for us. Our fans certainly have spoken in Australia and South Africa, where numbers are poor," he told Morning Report.

"Both countries also recognised that financially and from a player depth point of view they were struggling with that number of teams."

South Africa has had trouble retaining players in a country where the economy is in trouble and the currency is low, Tew said. He believed it was fair that South Africa would lose two teams.

"They made the wise call that they're going to concentrate that into four teams and they'll do some more thinking on what the rest of their competition looks like at home."

The final series has been "tweaked" to have an eight-team series; three conference winners would go forward and there would be five wild cards.

Tew said it was unfortunate that New Zealand teams had dominated last year's final series, so that didn't look as though it had "as much integrity" as it should have.

It wasn't inconceivable that four or five New Zealand teams would be in the finals, he said.

And it was still possible that a team could get through to the finals without playing the top sides. But everyone will play all but two teams, and the draw would be worked out over the three years of this contract that "everyone will play everybody".

"At the end of the day, if you win this competition you've normally been a very consistent rugby side for a long period of time."