BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — Super Rugby will expand into four conferences — two in South Africa — and the tournament will increase to 18 teams by 2016, Australian Rugby Union chief Bill Pulver predicted on Wednesday.
Australia and New Zealand would each keep five clubs in their conferences, while South Africa would likely increase its quota from five to six clubs, and teams would be added from Argentina and possibly Asia, Pulver told the Australian Associated Press.
The new teams would likely be included in two four-team Africa conferences.
"It's likely to be a four-conference model and this will be finalized in the next couple of weeks," Pulver was quoted as saying.
SANZAR, which represents the South Africa, New Zealand and Australian rugby unions, runs the 15-team competition and has been struggling to devise the best system to meet expansion demands ahead of a new TV deal.
South Africa has been pushing for several seasons for a sixth team, which would allow the Southern Kings re-entry. There was speculation Australia and New Zealand could break away and form an Australasian competition, but South Africa's close proximity to European time zones made that unlikely due to the extra weight that gives SANZAR in TV rights negotiations.
Under the plan proposed by Pulver, each club would play 15 regular season games, with the South African conferences alternating matches each year against the Australian and New Zealand conferences.
SANZAR has already expanded its full international competition from the Tri-Nations to the Rugby Championship to include Argentina in the annual home-and-away series with the Springboks, All Blacks and Wallabies, and it was always considered only a matter of time before the provincial competition expanded into new territories.