It is time for New Zealand Rugby, Rugby Australia, SANNZAR, and the Super Rugby commissioner to consider expanding the competition by 2026. The current playoff structure is predictable and makes the competition less exciting for viewers, with the Kiwi teams dominating year after year. Australian Super Rugby teams are becoming weaker compared to the New Zealand-based teams, which also contributes to the lack of excitement. Therefore, an expansion is necessary to make the competition more competitive and engaging for fans.
The proposal is to increase the number of teams on both the New Zealand and Australian sides of the competition. It is suggested to expand to seven New Zealand-based teams, with potential new additions from Tauranga, Napier, New Plymouth, or Palmerston North. Taranaki Rugby has been producing internationally capped players, making it a suitable location for a new team. Additionally, Rugby Australia should also expand to seven Australian-based teams, bringing the total number of teams in the men’s competition to 14.
One of the main concerns driving the need for expansion is the surplus of internationally capped players not getting enough playing time due to competition within the teams. It is proposed that New Zealand Rugby should negotiate with contracted players from Blues, Chiefs, and Crusaders to consider a move to Australian-based teams, offering them more opportunities to showcase their skills. Additionally, it would create more options for players with less than 10 international caps, who are unlikely to get contracts outside of New Zealand.
Expanding to 14 teams would also open up the player market for New Zealand-contracted players, giving them more career options. Furthermore, stronger ties with the Argentinian rugby union (UAR) should be considered, as it would provide an opportunity for UAR-contracted players to join New Zealand Super teams, benefiting both parties.
On the Australian side, it is acknowledged that Rugby Australia may face financial challenges in adding a new team. One solution is to form a joint ownership with UAR to establish a combined team that would be jointly owned by ARU and UAR. Over time, Australia and Argentina should explore adding more teams to improve player development and professionalism within the competition.
Overall, an expansion of the Super Rugby competition is necessary to address the current imbalance and create a more exciting and competitive environment for both players and fans. It would open up opportunities for players, strengthen international relations, and ultimately enhance the overall quality of the competition.