SANZAAR announce 2018 Super Rugby schedule

The Brumbies will start their season against the Japan Sunwolves

SANZAAR announce 2018 Super Rugby schedule

"The structure was confusing, the outcomes of matches were becoming too predictable and the fans and stakeholders had, through our surveys, voiced their concerns".

By re-establishing a strong base for Super Rugby through a consolidated tournament format, that maximises the potential in the markets in which we now play, it will allow us to open up new markets through specific match placements and working strategically with our TV broadcasters in the future.

The decision to shrink Super Rugby has sparked a tremendous battle in Australia, where the Australian Rugby Union has come under strain and the Western Force are hoping to go it alone in a new Asia-Pacific competition.

The 2018 Super Rugby season will open on February 17 with a match between the Cape Town-based Stormers and Argentina's Jaguares, and with Japan's Sunwolves moving to the Australian conference.

But he put the underwhelming campaigns of some leading Australian and South African teams on notice after an alarming drop-off in interest among fans.

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Super Rugby expanded to 18 teams previous year with the addition of Argentina's Jaguares, the Sunwolves and South Africa's Kings, but organisers were forced to rethink the move amid unrest from fans and broadcasters over its complicated structure.

South Africa has cut the Bloemfontein-based Cheetahs and Port Elizabeth-based Kings who will now play in a European competition.

Each team will play 16 Conference matches - eight matches within their own Conference (home and away) and four matches against teams from each of the other Conferences (home or away).

The New Zealand and Australian conference, which now includes the Sunwolves, start the first of their 16 regular season games on February 23 with this year's champions the Canterbury Crusaders hosting the Waikato Chiefs on February 24.

"The Brumbies are the defending Australian Conference champions but they will face a stern challenge from all other Australian teams after a busy off-season across the country".

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South African team and last year' losing finalists the Lions, who didn't play any New Zealand team during the regular season this year, will play all the Kiwi sides except the Chiefs next season. We understand the outpouring of disappointment and associated passion shown for these teams.

The organisation's chief executive, Andy Marinos, defended the restructuring, saying not to have done it "would have been irresponsible and would have had a significant impact on the long-term sustainability of the game".

"Super Rugby is one of, if not the best club rugby tournaments in the world highlighted this year by a global TV audience of almost 50 million and a final crowd in Johannesburg of 60,000", Marinos said via a media release.

"It is a key high performance pathway for players from the SANZAAR Unions to transition from club to Test rugby, and this will continue to be the case in the future". The teams that have not performed need to start producing a more attractive brand of rugby that re-engages fans, produces competitive results and winning performances. Their performances over the first two seasons have been disappointing and improvement is required.

"We have a great tournament but what is needed now is the talking to be done on the field as enough opinion and perspective has been provided off the field".

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"In addition to the decisions that were taken around the Australian and South African Conferences, SANZAAR has also been working hard with Japan and the Sunwolves". SANZAAR will be taking a more proactive role within its operating structures.

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