Australian Rugby Union Boss Bill Pulver Reveals Super Rugby Expansion Plans
Super Rugby "is poised to move forward with a four-conference model in 2016 -- with two based in South Africa," according to Jim Morton of the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD. Australian Rugby Union CEO Bill Pulver "has revealed the announcement of an expanded and restructured model to take to broadcasters is only a fortnight away." On the eve of "an important meeting" with provincial CEOs, Pulver "has backed a Super 18 model for 2016 where Australian and New Zealand conferences would remain the same." Australia's five teams would play two less "local derby" matches in a 15-game regular season but would strengthen their Anzac ties by increasing their four matches against Kiwi rivals to five. Significant changes "will be made" in South Africa with its six teams, including the recalled Southern Kings, put in two pools with a new Argentine team and a final side, which the Australian Rugby Union "hopes will be based in the Asian market." Those two four-team conferences -- including an overseas expansion team in each -- "will only face one of the two Australasian conferences each year, which reduces fears of an increase in travel" (SMH, 4/30). In Sydney, Rupert Guinness reported Pulver is expected to face "an intense grilling" when he pitches the model to the provinces. Australian provincial CEOs took an "open mind" position on the issue on Wednesday after learning Pulver had revealed details of the Super 18 proposal. However, the provincial heads "will come to Thursday's meeting with Pulver armed with questions and intent on him showing, in detail, how the proposal will help Australia's interests." New South Wales Rugby Union CEO Jason Allen said, "We have to look at the proposal as a whole rather than judge it on one or two elements alone" (SMH, 4/30). In Brisbane, Jim Tucker reported the All Blacks' John Kirwan "is adamant" Super Rugby’s '16 expansion must include Japan, the June Test window "should be scrapped and local derbys should be maximised in any new format." The thinking "is not so far removed from the Aussie ideal on key fronts." Lifting the number of local derbys from six to 20 when the competition became Super 15 in '11 "has added to the spectacle for fans, something the Kiwis got to see far earlier than Aussies because it was not until this year that Australia’s conference became a true five-way competition." Auckland Blues coach John Kirwan said, “Derbys are really good. The crowds like (derbys), more people turn up to them, it’s hard rugby and you have to keep growing that philosophy" (COURIER-MAIL, 4/30).