11:37 11 March 2017
Rugby: Future of Sunwolves in limbo following SANZAAR meeting
By Rich Freeman
TOKYO, March 11, Kyodo
The future of the Sunwolves and their involvement in Super Rugby will be made known "in the coming days," SANZAAR CEO Andy Marinos said Saturday following an executive committee meeting of the body that runs Southern Hemisphere rugby.
An over-complicated structure, too many one-sided games and a decline in attendances in certain areas have seen calls for the tournament to be completely revamped.
A number of alternative models have been put forward and SANZAAR said a decision would be made soon.
"Following two days of robust discussion there are a number of tournament considerations that now require further discussion and consultation. This includes final consultation within the national unions and discussion with key stakeholders that would allow the adoption of changes proposed by the strategic plan," Marinos said in a press release from London where the meeting was held.
"SANZAAR will make a formal statement on the future of the organisation, Super Rugby and the tournament format in the coming days once these further meetings have been concluded."
One train of thought has been to reduce the number of teams in the 18-team competition, with the Sunwolves one of those in the spotlight.
The Japanese franchise has no say in the discussions as they are not a formal partner of SANZAAR. But it would appear that they do have some support from New Zealand.
"The Sunwolves must remain in Super Rugby. It is crucial for the growth of the competition and rugby in Japan," tweeted Avan Lee, CEO of the Hurricanes.
Other alternatives include the cutting of two South African sides and one team from Australia, while a compromise measure has also been put forward that would see all 18 teams retained and the Sunwolves realign to the Australia conference.
In that scenario, Argentina's Jaguares would also move from the South African to New Zealand conference, making three groups of six.
The Sunwolves would then play the five Australian teams on a home-and-away basis and six games against teams from the New Zealand and South African conferences.
This format would also tie in with the broadcast agreement that has been signed through to 2020 on the basis of 18 teams.
The Sunwolves play the Cheetahs on Saturday night in Bloemfontein, South Africa, one of the eight away games and three "home" games that they play in Singapore that see them rack up almost 120,000 kilometers of air travel under the current Super Rugby format.