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Super Rugby format

From 2016 there will be a new format for Super Rugby. This format is expected to run from 2016 to 2020 when – most likely a new format will be introduced.

The number of teams from 2016 will be increased from 15 to 18 and with that there will be a mass of changes to the structure and format of the competition.

It’s fair to say that this new format is not particularly popular with Super Rugby fans. The reason for this is that the new format is not easy to understand. It’s also a bit lopsided at times.

There has been no shortage of fan criticism for the new format but we remember that in 2011, when SANZAR brought in the conference system it was not popular with fans either. As as time progressed however, everyone became more familiar with the format and now everyone wants to keep the 15 team format instead of accepting the new format. Feedback from fans and players suggests that the most popular format is strength vs strength format in which every team plays every team.

That now looks unlikely given the number of teams SANZAAR has included and the available time to play Super Rugby in the congested season so we will have to live with what we have for now. It should also be noted that the current system of Groups and Conferences has been used successfully by the NFL for years. In the NFL it takes four years for every team to play the all of the others.  That tournament has 32 teams and the American population haven’t had too much trouble getting to grips with it. Have a look at their system here.

So, here at SuperXV we are going to bide our time before passing judgement and we are going to try and live with what SANZAR have given us. Perhaps in time we will learn to love this format too. Let’s hope.

So, what is changing in Super Rugby?

Instead of three Geographical Conferences there will be FOUR Conferences arranged into two groups. These will be the Australasian Group and the South African Group. The number of teams in the Conferences are not all the same across the board and this impacts heavily on who plays who and who qualifies. This also means that in rotating years some South African teams will not play the New Zealand teams and the ones that don’t will play the Australian teams instead.

6-5-4 Rule

If you are starting to lose track of this format try to remember the 6-5-4 rule.

For the regular season, the best way to look at how the season will be is to use the 6-5-4 rule. Every team will play SIX games in their own Conference. This includes home and away clashes against two of the conference teams. Then there will be FIVE games against one of the teams from another Conference. For example, in Year 1 the Rebels will play SIX matches against Australian teams and then FIVE matches against New Zealand teams.

Then the Rebels will play FOUR matches against teams in Africa 1 Conference from the South African Group. Two of these four matches will be played at home and two are played away.


In the regular season each team will play 15 matches across 17 Rounds and will have two byes.

SIX (intra-conference) – FIVE (Australasian Group) and FOUR (African Group) makes a total of 15 matches.

Now if we haven’t lost you yet, you may have noticed that in Year 1 the Australasian Group teams won’t be playing all of the South African Group teams. Every year the fixtures rotate so if the Australian teams played the teams in Africa 1 Conference, in Year 2 they will play the teams in Africa 2 ConferenceThe same rotation applies for the New Zealand teams.

The Australasian Group – Australia and New Zealand.

The Australasian Group will be made up of ten teams from Australia and New Zealand. The Australian Conference and New Zealand Conference that were in place for the 15 team format remain intact. The Teams in this Australasian Group will play SIX matches against teams from their own Conference.
Instead of playing all teams home and away as in the 15 team format they will play just two teams home and away and the rest either home OR away. These fixtures will rotate annually.

The Australian teams will also play all FIVE of the teams in the New Zealand Conference and FOUR of the teams in one of the two South African Conferences. Each year the two African Conferences will rotate so in Year 1 the Australian teams play the teams in African 1 Conference and then in Year 2 they will play the African 2 Conference teams.

New Zealand teams will therefore play the Africa 2 Conference teams in Year 1 and in Year 2 the African 1 Conference teams. New Zealand teams also play six intra-conference matches – two teams of the five teams will be home and away and the other three teams either home OR away.

The South African Group – Argentina, Japan and South Africa.

The South African Group will be made up of eight teams. Six teams will be from South Africa (6) and one each from Japan and Argentina.

It’s in the South African Group where it starts to get a little confusing. Instead of having 10 teams like the Australian Group there are eight teams and instead of five teams in each conference, there are two Conferences of four teams. The two South African Conferences will alternate playing the New Zealand and Australian teams annually.

This is to say that in Year 1 the Africa 1 Conference will play the Australian Conference teams and then in Year 2 they will play the New Zealand Conference teams. In Year 1 the African 1  Conference teams play the Australian Conference teams and in Year 2 they will play the New Zealand teams. The African 2 Conference teams play the New Zealand teams in Year 1 and this then rotates for Year 2.

The Play Offs and the Final.

Under the 15 team format SIX teams contested the finals. From 2016 EIGHT teams will contest the finals. These will be the top eight teams based on points earned through the 17 rounds.

Who qualifies for the play offs ?
As mentioned above there will be FOUR Conferences. The team that finishes on top of each conference will qualify for the play offs. These teams will be ranked as they were previously on competition points earned in the regular season. These Conference winning teams will have home advantage in week one of the play offs and will host a play off in week 1.

The wildcard teams – five to 8.

The teams who finished in places numbered from 5th place to 8th will also qualify for the play offs as wild card teams but they will have to travel to the teams who finished above them. As in the past the highest ranked team will play the lowest ranked team. The second highest plays the second lowest and so on.

Wildcard qualifiers will come from the best THREE teams from the The Australasian Group and best placed team from one from the The South African Group that did not win a conference. This means that there will be Five teams out of eight from the Australasian Group and just three from the South African Group.

The seeding’s for the play offs will be as follows.

Quarter finals
(Conference winner) Seed 1 vs Seed 8 (Wild Card)
(Conference winner) Seed 2 vs Seed 7 (Wild Card)
(Conference winner) Seed 3 vs Seed 6 (Wild Card)
(Conference winner) Seed 4 vs Seed 5 (Wild Card)

Semi-finals
Highest Seed vs Lowest Seed
Second Highest Seed vs Third Highest Seed

Final
Highest Seed vs Second Highest Seed
The teams with the highest ranking from the regular season will host the final.